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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 2nd Nov 2014, 17:31
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More eastern travels, June/July 1945

Following a laborious passage across India interspersed by several refuelling stops on sundry lakes, our C-class boat alighted in the late afternoon on the Hoogly river adjacent to a large girder bridge, to be followed by an inevitable 3-ton truck ride for the final part of our journey.

Nothing on earth could have prepared us for the chaotic Calcutta experience - its sheer, endless overwhelming press of humanity, the cacophony of honking horns and shouting voices, a pervasive aroma of cheap tobacco, traffic stink, animal dung, bad drains and decay. Most of the buildings were covered with dirty, peeling mould-covered stucco often hidden behind a plethora of the most garish advertisement hoardings imaginable, and from the windows of which protruded bamboo poles carrying vast quantities of laundry hung out to 'dry' in the steaming, foetid atmosphere. The traffic especially was unbelievable, a highly compressed, slow-moving and disorganised mixture of modern military vehicles, ancient taxis, horse-drawn gharries, bullock carts, smoke-belching and grossly overloaded buses, cyclists, rickshaws and of course pedestrians by the tens of thousands, the whole thrown into even greater confusion by occasional wandering cows - which, being holy, had priority over everything else. By all accounts things are not much different sixty years later, but fortunately I am not there to see it.

We found ourselves once more in tents, in the grounds of what had been a large girl’s school. The climate was very warm and humid, for the SW Monsoon was in full season and heavy downpours frequent; luckily our tent was waterproof, a luxury we were not always to enjoy during the following months. We were given to understand that we would be there for around two weeks, during which time we were once again left to our own devices.

Nevertheless there were some compensations, one of which was Chowringhee, the main street. With the Maidan, a large park-like area of grass on one side, it was more open and thus less noisome than most of the rest of the city, and had a fair selection of shops, restaurants and tea-houses in which to pass time or perhaps spend some of our slender funds. Two essential items were a “tin” trunk and a cigarette container (virtually everyone smoked in those days, tobacco products being duty-free anyway). The trunk was supposedly tolerably thief-proof, the fallibility of Indian-made locks notwithstanding, but more important was its resistance to damp or entry by undesirables (scorpions etc) as opposed to a kit bag; while the fag box, its rounded shape conveniently holding the contents of a 50-cigarette tin, had a silica-gel capsule in the lid that kept the contents reasonably dry - a most desirable feature in that appallingly humid climate. Spirits were also cheap and freely available, if not always of very high quality; given the prevailing heat, beer would have been preferable but was difficult to locate in any quantity and if found was liable to disappear fast.

After a week or so at the school, for some reason we were shifted further from the town centre to a collection of tents on a sports field. Although in some ways a better location, it was too far to walk comfortably to Chowringhee and so we made use of rickshaw travel. Provided one did not think too hard about the moral aspect of one human acting as draft animal for another, it was quite a pleasant way to go; slow yes, but given the traffic conditions only marginally less so than by taxi, and dirt cheap. Of course one had to be not too fussy about the route one’s puller might choose to take, short cuts through highly insalubrious alleys and back streets being a favoured option; while as for the morals of it, well if you walked you were then depriving some wretchedly poor citizen of earning a fare, for lack of which he (and his family) would most certainly go hungry that day.

In early July we started to move further eastwards, destined for yet another holding unit in eastern Bengal but this time the delights of overland travel were to be our lot; so, armed with the necessary travel documents and our kit (which included real arms, viz. a .38 revolver each plus 6 rounds of ammo per man issued prior to leaving UK), we found ourselves dumped outside Calcutta’s Sealdah station early one evening, to be immediately surrounded by hordes of ragged porters. Somehow I acquired the oldest and most decrepit-looking of the lot, which given the size of my trunk was unfortunate; but, somehow or other, the bandy-legged old fellow hoisted it onto his (padded) head unaided and set off down the platform, his legs seemingly bowing even further under the load. Having deposited his burden in the train there followed an inevitable dispute over the size of my proffered tip, dealt with in the approved pukka sahib manner by turning my back; however, he continued to whine and wheedle in a most persistent way, while repeatedly pointing to the top of his supposedly maltreated head. I began to suffer pangs of guilt - maybe the equivalent of sixpence or so was rather on the stingy side? At last conscience got the better of me, but as I reached into my pocket I realised the noise had ceased; distantly, I spied the old fellow melting into the crowd so probably he had not really been underpaid – by contemporary local standards, anyway. Nevertheless after all these years I still feel guilty on this point, for I myself would not have attempted to carry that load on my head for £60, never mind 6d!

The train shuffled off into a hot, sticky night, but sleep was not to be our lot. True, we had a reserved compartment but an Indian 3rd Class carriage was never designed for comfort, being rather an exercise in accommodating the maximum number of people in a small space; and as upholstery used up space there was none, only bare slatted wooden benches apparently designed for midgets. Dawn revealed a flat, well-watered green landscape and soon after we arrived on the banks of a mighty river, transferring to an ancient steamer that took most of the day to convey us to landfall somewhere downstream. Here there was more hanging about, but eventually we boarded a narrow gauge train that trundled us through a second night to the dingy town of Comilla. Well described by the author H.E Bates as a “squalid air junction”, this was a scruffy little place in East Bengal where another inevitable transit camp awaited us, though mercifully of well-constructed bamboo bashas rather than tents; but at least we knew that this was the final stop before our eventual destination of Akyab, where we would at last join an operational squadron – the end of a long road that for me had started almost three years before.

After a week or so of boredom, we were taken to the airfield and literally packed into a Dakota belonging to our new unit, no. 194 Squadron or The Friendly Firm as it was known in the Burma theatre of operations. The aircraft was filled to the roof, us few passengers lying on top of the cargo with barely enough space for the crew to squeeze past to the flight deck – as I recall, the cabin roof was inches from my face as I sprawled uncomfortably on top of a tin trunk. The wet season was in full flow, so we flew down the Arakan coast in blinding rain a few hundred feet above the sea – an accepted technique at that time for avoiding the mighty monsoon storm clouds and their feared turbulence, and thus for most of the flight only wave tops were visible through the torrents of rainwater streaming back across the windows.

Arrival at Akyab was heralded by a loud clang as we touched down on the steel plank (PSP) runway, succeeded by a metallic rattle of diminishing intensity as the aircraft gradually lost speed - we would become very familiar with this sound over the coming months. There followed a short and extremely bumpy ride in the inevitable Dodge 3-tonner, at the end of which we duly arrived at the squadron domestic area, a large tented encampment in a coconut plantation. Here we were told there was no accommodation for us and that we would have to pitch our own tent when a suitable site was located; meanwhile, we could set up our camp beds in the Sergeant’s Mess (a large bamboo basha) between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. Since this building was more weatherproof than an average tent we were in no hurry to start ‘camping out’, but after a couple of days were told that space had now been found for our tent and to ‘get ourselves sorted’.

Erecting a heavy, double-skinned two-pole tent was not a task for the inexperienced, but somehow we got it up with guy ropes secure and the very necessary drainage ditch all around. With adequate space for five people, but stuffy when the side curtains were lowered (very necessary when the rain came – which it did, often copiously and sometimes horizontally), it nevertheless proved remarkably waterproof but less resistant to nuisances such as ants, mosquitoes, and the occasional scorpion. Short of soaping oneself en plein air during one of the frequent deluges, washing facilities were courtesy of personal ingenuity, so fairly soon we constructed a primitive shower consisting of a metal drum atop a rickety bamboo frame, its supply collected in an old drop tank supplied via a crude system of guttering round the tent’s eaves. True the drum had first to be filled manually before the shower would work, but ours was only one of many similar Heath Robinson contraptions and at least we could now keep clean!

Rangoon having been captured a few months earlier, the war in Burma was by this time virtually over; some Japs remained trapped on the wrong side of the Sittang river, but they were little more than a nuisance so the next big thing had to be an air and sea-borne assault on the Malay peninsula several hundred miles to the south. Our part in this (Operation Zipper) would obviously be mounted from Rangoon, but until that time came much of our army remained in the land-locked central Burma plain and required constant re-supply; the major proportion of which was delivered by the three or four Dakota squadrons at Akyab (plus others down the coast at Ramree) dispatching all available aircraft at first light, and in rapid succession, to a variety of airfields mainly located in the central Burmese plain. The payload could be virtually anything, though mostly seeming to consist of petrol in 40-gallon drums - which did not deter us from smoking (unless one of the drums was actually leaking, a not infrequent occurrence) - plus food rations, occasional passengers and almost any odd item that might be required by an army of occupation. It was only a short hop, usually about an hour & a quarter each way, unloading took little time and we were usually ‘home’ by lunchtime - so it might seem that we had an easy life.

I suppose that in some ways we did; living conditions, while fairly Spartan, were luxurious compared to those endured by our troops in the field (or jungle) - food adequate if dull, alcohol (other than beer) plentiful, reliable mail deliveries almost daily, and superb surf bathing off the island’s beach of fine black sand - all of which helped to balance the many discomforts. The daily flying task was hardly onerous either (more of this anon), and my crew & I were just becoming accustomed to this not unpleasant existence when our equanimity was shattered by being suddenly told “….you’re on an escape and evasion course - leave on tomorrow’s flight to Comilla”. Protest was useless, for it was obvious why we had been chosen - as the most newly arrived and therefore least experienced crew on the squadron, by definition we were the most dispensable - so back to Comilla we went, beyond which lay a 36-hour rail journey further north (plus several hours more by road) to our ultimate destination. However by great good fortune a rare special flight to Dimapur was leaving the next day, sparing us that tedious and uncomfortable train ride; so, following a short flight we found ourselves dumped at yet another transit camp that had no apparent reason to exist. Yet barely 12 months before, the whole area would have been frantic with activity - for this was where the long and tortuous Manipur road commenced its often vertiginous ascent from the Dimapur railhead, up through the jungle-clad Naga hills to Kohima and on to Imphal. Both places had seen much fierce fighting the year before, indeed it was at Kohima that the 14th Army had made their gallant stand against the Japanese forces attempting a desperate invasion of India; and, since this road was the only feasible land route into Burma, it had been an absolutely vital supply line.

Although disgruntled at being suddenly removed from operational flying, and especially so after having just commenced it following what had seemed interminable years of training, in retrospect I suppose we should have been grateful for an experience for which many tourists would now pay good money - if indeed they were able to anyway, for access to that area has been severely restricted by the Indian government. A long drive in the dubious comfort of a 15-cwt truck along an initially more or less straight and level road, then an endless succession of sharp bends climbing steadily upwards through the jungle-clad hills with a cliff face on one side and a near-vertical drop on the other, saw us eventually deposited at a small encampment that was to be our home for the next ten days.

It was in fact a not unattractive situation, on a spur overlooking the road and giving a fine view of forested mountains across a deep valley beneath; it was also notably cooler than we were accustomed to, a distinct bonus. The instructional staff consisted of two middle-aged army officers who knew the country well - one a peace-time forestry officer and the other a tobacco planter from Thailand - plus a handful of Indian army personnel, and the inevitable local civilians fulfilling (more or less incompetently) the necessary domestic duties; the most incompetent of all, of course, being allocated to us as our personal servant.

At this distance of almost seventy years memory grows rather dim, my main recollection being of long walks in the surrounding jungle. Initially we were led by one or other of the staff, who would instruct us in making best use of terrain, the many uses to which one could put bamboo, crude navigation, and point out any edible fruits (not many, as I recall). Moving about was easier than we had expected, for the area consisted mainly of primary jungle where an over-arching canopy of tall trees shut out much of the light and thus discouraged the more impenetrable surface vegetation; however there was little level ground, so most progress was either sweatily uphill or precipitously down, at the end of which there was usually a boulder-strewn, fast-flowing torrent to be crossed. Such streams came as welcome relief, for they were never deep enough to impede us but instead allowed for a pleasantly cooling dip. Leeches? – well they certainly existed but I don’t remember them being much of a problem, probably because being a mountainous area there was little in the way of excessively wet, swampy ground.

As the course progressed we were sent out on our own, nominally to undertake certain ‘tasks’ such as following a laid down route but in practice doing pretty much what we pleased. Observing the large variety of insect life, in particular an extraordinary number of large and beautiful butterflies, some of our number started catching and collecting the choicer specimens; meanwhile, the rest of us were quite content to pass time keeping cool in the many stream-fed pools. Evenings were spent drinking gin on our primitive ‘veranda’, watching the setting sun playing on the often cloud-capped mountains, or later reading or playing cards by the light of a hurricane lamp. The inevitable mosquitoes were a constant nuisance, but by now we were accustomed to them and trusted in our daily mepacrin tablets to keep the dreaded malaria at bay.

Mid-course there was one free day when we were taken a further twenty or so miles up the road to Kohima, there to view the scene of the memorable battle fifteen months before. In such a beautiful setting it was hard to imagine such recent misery and bloodshed, even though that famous epitaph ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say – for your tomorrow, we gave our today’ was even then carved on the main memorial in the war cemetery.

The final end-of-course event was for us to pass a night in the boondocks, when we would be able to put to use our various survival skills hopefully learned during the previous ten days. Fortunately we were not expected to live off the land, however would have to erect our own shelter if we wanted any and then find our way to a rendezvous for pick up the next day. I recall passing a very uncomfortable night in a crude, bamboo-framed shelter that leaked most of a passing shower, and the following day wondering why we had not had the good sense of the other crew who had fled surreptitiously to a nearby NAAFI canteen and shacked up there instead!

So we were not sorry to head off back down the road to Dimapur, although this time there was no friendly Dakota to waft us ‘home’; instead we enjoyed the Spartan delight of a third class, metre-gauge train that took us laboriously back to Comilla overnight through the Shillong hills. For the cognoscenti, our motive power on the hilly part was one or more of the capable, lend-lease ‘MacArthur’ 2-8-2s’, while the level section on the southern part of the run saw us hauled by a handsome, royal blue British-built pacific that shifted along at a surprisingly brisk pace. Such unaccustomed velocity improved ventilation no end, this being augmented by our carriage having inward-opening doors enabling me to pass much of the time sitting in an open doorway, a most delightful way of viewing the passing scene. Arriving at Comilla, we wasted no time in securing passage on the first available flight back to Akyab - which makes this a convenient point to break the narrative, to resume later with some scribblings about various flying tasks undertaken during the following year & a bit.
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Old 2nd Nov 2014, 18:34
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Old 2nd Nov 2014, 21:25
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Thanks HarryM - more please!
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Old 2nd Nov 2014, 21:56
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Great stuff HarryM, and it synchs nicely with Danny42C and his experience of the sub continent. Can't wait to read the flying stuff though, as one who likes the Transport stories, I'm sure you can rely on me as an avid follower. Keep em coming.

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Old 2nd Nov 2014, 22:31
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Danny 42C

Thanks for your kind compliments about my 1958-59 photos (post #6398 - above) of the mobile VHF/DF vehicles at Gan and R.A.F. Abingdon, here is a bit of background regarding the latter and a link to me seeing, reasonably closely, a serving president of the USA in the shape of President Eisenhower at R.A.F. Benson in August 1959.

In the early summer of 1959 I was a VHF/DF Operator based at RAF Abingdon in charge of a mobile [RV-105] VHF/DF station that provided cross bearings to Air Traffic Control at RAF Benson about 15-miles to the east. Aircraft on final approach to Benson called for a bearing and the bearing my operators took in degrees true from Abingdon was passed to Benson ATC by an always open landline (squawk box). Benson then plotted the bearing we gave allowing them to calculate with a fair degree of accuracy the distance the aircraft was from touchdown.
When things were quiet we VHF/DF operators at Abingdon chatted to the ATC bods at Benson and as a result were quite friendly, so much so that we occasionally went out for drinks together.

In June of that year I'd been accepted for training as an AQM and by late August had completed my training at 1 PTS at Abingdon and 242 OCU at Dishforth and was back at Abingdon awaiting my posting to 99 Sqn at Lyneham and as a result was back on the VHF/DF wheel giving bearings to Benson’s ATC.

One day in late August 1959 whilst still waiting for my posting to 99 Sqn, one of my Benson ATC friends at the other end of the landline at Benson told me that President Eisenhower was due to land at Benson in a 216 Squadron Comet on Saturday morning and would I like to see a real live US president? Ike had been on a courtesy visit to the queen at Balmoral and was returning south and flying into Benson to have talks with prime minister Harold Macmillan at Chequers.

Nothing ventured nothing gained, I decided to go over to Benson on Saturday and so armed with my camera, hopped on my motorcycle and went over to Benson. Wearing uniform and with a rather large “professional” looking camera around my neck [a Rolleiflex] to which I’d attached a flash-gun, it was assumed I was an “official photographer” and was ushered to the scaffolding dais specially erected for the press and photographers and duly took photographs of the Comet’s arrival, of it taxiing to a halt in front of the dais and with Ike disembarking. Sadly I was out of colour film and had to rely on B&W.

It must have been quite a feather in 216’s hat to have flown a real live US president making for a rather unique event. I suppose it also begs the question as to why he didn’t travel in AirForce One or whatever it was called in those days (a Super Connie I think), but in 1959 using 216 Squadron’s Comet 2s, the RAF operated the only military jet passenger service and Ike as a military man may well have savoured the experience of travelling in a military jet airliner, albeit R.A.F. rather than USAF.
A visit to the National Archives at Kew and a look at 216 Squadron’s Operations Record Book for August 1959 provided the itinerary and crew details as below:
Comet XK 715 Flight No. Spec 1416
S/Ldr P. E. Pullen
F/O J. Byrne
F/S D. Rance
F/S J. Hayley
M. Eng J. Clark
Sgt M.C. Wendler
Sgt (W) M. Wood

27th August 1959 Lyneham — LHR 1600 - 1620
28th August 1959 LHR — Dyce (Aberdeen) 0845 - 1005
29th August 1959 Dyce — Benson 1045 - 1205
29th August 1959 Benson — Lyneham 1305 - 1400

The Times of 26th August 1959 provided further details of Ike’s visit as the press cuttings below record.

[FONT=Verdana]The 216 Sqn Comet lands at RAF Benson

The Comet pulls up in front of the dais - and look at that bulled-up shiny finish!

...and Ike disembarks, doffing his hat as he does so

…a unique experience.

And as regards Memories of Gan - watch this space (or another thread) shortly for my 1958 illustrated memories of the place augmented by photographs taken earlier this year when I went out to see how the place has changed after 56-years.

Last edited by Warmtoast; 2nd Nov 2014 at 22:43.
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Old 3rd Nov 2014, 09:11
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harrym, what a tour de force! You paint a vivid picture of the vivid land that is the sub-continent of India. We clearly have another Danny in our midst and I, like others I'm sure, wait expectantly for more such painting with words. You take us many thousands of miles, as well as back in time, with accomplished ease. The result no doubt of much hard work and research, but the result is a triumph!
Thank you. More, much more, please!
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Old 3rd Nov 2014, 14:39
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[quote-Danny42]Yet you must always remember, that we were (in the words of the D. Tel.
obituarist): "Ordinary men who did extraordinary things" - to which I would add
"in extraordinary times". We were not "special" in any way, it's just that we
were on watch when it all happened.[/quote]
Sorry Danny but I and I suspect a great many others shall disagree quite strongly. You guys (both sexes) were, are and will always be VERY special!!

Regarding the positive G the Spitfire could pull, I am sure I read a book at some time in the past that mentioned 9G+ and 3G- but it may have been one of the later marks. It was also mentioned that many pilots could have saved themselves by pulling more Gs to out manoeuvre them wot was chasing them. The higher stirrup step on the rudder bar was supposed to allow an extra 1G to be pulled in the turn (or dive pull out).

It seems Brad Pitt, who stared in the tank movie Fury, is so interested in WWII that he is now going to purchase a Spitfire to fly around in. When I was in my early 20s I was offered the chance to sit in a Mk XVI but I decline as I didn't think I had earned the right. Bloody kicking myself now. Sorry, gone off topic.

Danny, your continued words shall be missed. You are an excellent orator and I hope you will consider putting your story to paper and publishing it. I am sure it would be a good seller and spectacular read. THANK YOU for sharing your experiences with us and again to Cliff Nemo for starting the incredible thread. As long as there is cyberspace all your experiences shall live on and on.

When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrows they gave their today.

In case I haven't said it before to you;

Thank you for your Service.
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Old 3rd Nov 2014, 18:42
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Wonderful !

Welcome to: "The Brightest Jewel in the Crown of Empire !" Having endured three successive wartime Monsoons on the subcontinent, I have herewith appointed myself an Old India Hand, and in that capacity pontificate as follows:

Now you know why the old "trooping season" out there was always in the dry and cooler autumn and early winter months, so that newcomers could play themselves in gradually before the temperature started to rise in February, grew progressively hotter and hotter, and then from April ever more and more humid by the day until you were living in a sort of permanent Turkish Bath, praying for the Monsoon to break (which in Calcutta it did a few days either side of 15th May), when things would be a lot wetter, but also much cooler.

Then the heavens would open, and it would bucket down solidly for a week or so, then tail off into repeated heavy showers which gradually grew fewer until September or so. All the stinking rubbish in Calcutta swirled around, becoming even more fetid and smelly, but did not wash away: the sodden mess just redistributing itself.

Your: "...our C-class boat alighted in the late afternoon on the Hoogly river adjacent to a large girder bridge...."

Don't remember any flying boats near the great Howrah bridge. Probably one of the railway bridges further upstream (whererever it was, I hope they told you to keep your mouth closed if you fell in !)

And your: ".....by occasional wandering cows - which, being holy, had priority over everything else. By all accounts things are not much different sixty years later......"

Seventy almost, surely? - (nor were they a year before !).

And your: "......in tents, in the grounds of what had been a large girl’s school...."

(Sounds like the "La Martinière", not far from Chowringhee).

And your: "..... Chowringhee, the main street...... had a fair selection of shops, restaurants and tea-houses.......perhaps spend some of our slender funds...."

Also in Chowringhee was the Grand Hotel, aka officer and aircrew NCO leave hostel - (Rs10 full board - about 14/-, and you'd be on 13/6 a day pay), and a few doors down the only air-conditioned cinema - or any other a/c building for that matter - within a thousand miles). A short step in the other direction was the lordly Bengal Club, whose magnificent portico was (reputedly) closed to anybody below the rank of full Colonel, or if civilian, earning less than one lakh (Rs 100,000) per annum.

Danny (OIH).
Old 3rd Nov 2014, 21:39
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Thank you for the kind and appreciative words said about me and my generation, but I still firmly believe that there was nothing special about us, it was simply the case that we happened to be there when the balloon went up.

Our Fathers (and Mothers) had risen to the challenges of their times: I would hope that our successors would do the same if occasion arose.

Regarding "G" forces in the Spitfire, I've heard that the Me109 pilots were expressly warned against engaging in kurvenkampf with the Spitfire, because the Spit could always pull more "G" and so turn inside them (don't know if it's true).

I don't think there's any interest in WWII books now - it's ancient history. In any case, our stories are all available on PPRuNe to anyone who takes the time to log in.

Cheers, Danny.
Old 4th Nov 2014, 17:16
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Fareastdriver: Thanks for your #6402, I can only say the same for your contributions!

Danny: apologies for the sixty year booboo, which arose because that instalment was 'lifted' from memoirs compiled about ten years ago - I failed to spot the chrono error when checking through prior to posting, of course it should read (to be precise) 69 plus a bit years.

You are probably right about the bridge; it certainly carried a railway, but was some way out of town so could not have been the Howrah one.

In later life I discovered my great-great grandfather had died in Calcutta, some time in the 1820s; he was serving in the East India Company's private army, and probably was a victim of the combined effects of a tropical climate, contemporary poor hygiene standards and maybe too much claret as well - a common health hazard at the time, read William Hickey's memoirs of that period.

To all who have been kind enough to comment on my scribbling - the next instalment will follow shortly, but things will slow down a bit after that as I am still working on completion of the rest!
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Old 5th Nov 2014, 19:31
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Danny, harrym and Warmtoast,

Thanks to you, and a few others, our "crewroom" is once again buzzing with discussion ranging across the years. Some overlaps others experience, some bringing in later history of our service, and the people who made it. I'm not sure I would agree with your assertion that no one is interested in WW2 stories Danny, I've recently finished a series, based on actual history of RAF Squadrins, from 1914 to 1946. 12 books in total, and I bought the last eleven based on book one. There are plenty of us who respect both our history,mans the people who made it. Now, back to the grind chaps, PPrune expects etc, and if I dare be so bold, so do I.

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Old 5th Nov 2014, 19:52
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I had a go at writing a book once. It was fictional but based on actual happenings on Valiant tankers in the early sixties. I wrote it during my ample free time in China and the Solomon Islands. On completion it stretched to over 200 pages of A4, say 400 in a book. One or two people I showed it too were enthusiastic, others not so.

After months correcting the grammar I investigated self publishing. It was not going to be cheap. There was not going to be a lot of change out of a £1,000 to get it published in basic form and should you want to promote it you were looking at another £1,000.

The returns by the author are pathetic. It's the publishers and the bookshops who coin the money. A book selling at £17 would only realise 50-75p a throw so you are talking about 3-4,000 before breaking even. I didn't have that many friends so I packed up that idea.

There are a few people that have tried. They have cupboards full of them.

Anybody wants to download a copy, give me a shout.
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Old 5th Nov 2014, 20:08
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Agreed as far as the printed work is concerned. Many have great success now, self publishing through the electronic media, Kindle for instance, I have a kindle, and that's wher I read the above series. Publish and be damned sir, and let me know when you do, I will definately purchase a copy.

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Old 5th Nov 2014, 22:32
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harrym (still on your #6401, as there's such a wealth of material in it),

What seems to have been your experience in "Cal" in summer '45 reflects a tremendous change in the status and treatment of "BORs" - "British Other Ranks", compared with what I'd found up to summer '44, which was the last time I was there (I spent my last 18 months 1400 miles away in South India, and never saw Calcutta again).

Your: ".......a “tin” trunk.....more important was its resistance to damp or entry by undesirables (scorpions etc)."

The cheap (Rs20-30) bazaar tin trunk wasn't all that damp-proof, I lined mine with a balloon fabric liner sewn up by the dherzi in a shape which fitted into the corners. The main purpose was to keep the white ants out !

The scorpion was more a dry-season hazard, but there were plenty of other horrible invertebrates with infinite numbers of legs which appeared in the monsoon. Even so, I take it that you tapped your shoes and slippers out every time before putting them on - the inside of the toes being a favourite spot for a scorpion to bed down!

And your: "......hordes of ragged porters.......but as I reached into my pocket I realised the noise had ceased.......!"

Decrepit and bandy-legged or not, they could move through the crowd with impressive speed, it was vital to keep them in sight all the time - or you might never see your luggage again ! Your brand new trunk (and bedroll ?) would mark you out as likely prey !

If he were an "official" station bearer, he would have a numbered brass plate on an armband or on his pugri (pagri ?), the head-pad. It was vital to note this number before entrusting your baggage to him, then you had some come-back. There were even more unofficial bearers, but then you were on your own with them.

"Sixpence", I guess, would be a four-anna coin. As the "proper" rate for Sahibs, IIRC, was a two-anna - and he'd be lucky to get half that from a Bengali gentleman - he was pushing his luck ! No pangs of guilt needed, Sir.

And your: ".......but an Indian 3rd Class carriage was never designed for comfort...... only bare slatted wooden benches".

I find this beyond belief. This must have been a "special" military train, for otherwise all BORs were entitled to travel on normal services in 2nd-Class 4-bunk "cabins" (officers always in 1st-class - much the same thing but better upholstery).

Did they really put British SNCOs and airmen into 4th-Class ? - (open-plan and the cheapest - except for travel on the roof, or hanging on the sides, for which the locals negotiated a price from the train guard - what happened when they came to a tunnel - or an oncoming train passed on the opposite track ? Don't know and don't like to think). 3rd-Class was like 4th but with some upholstery.

(Your #6410),

"To all who have been kind enough to comment on my scribbling - the next instalment will follow shortly, but things will slow down a bit after that as I am still working on completion of the rest!"

Can they slow down a bit now, please, as I'm still struggling to catch up with my exegesis on your #6401 !!

Cheers, Danny.
Old 6th Nov 2014, 09:00
  #6415 (permalink)  
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More from Nkosi

In the dark of the night I sometimes recollect my childhood in Kenya, and especially my time with my uncle who had returned after spending time in POW.
He took me once to Lake Naivasha, a stopping off point for the 'boats' transiting my part of Africa for, I believe Cape Town. I can almost remember the size, smell of the interior of the aircraft and the cockpit, filled with more dials and gauges that you could poke a stick at.

However, you mentioned, Danny, that books on the conflict that you were a part of, RAF wise, were not around. I have managed to get hold of a dog eared copy of a book entitled 'the War In The Air, 1939 - 1945' edited by Gavin Lyall. Within the editors preface he indicates 'this is intended simply to be an anthology of writings from, and about, the British and Commonwealth Airforces in the 1939 -1945 war' it contains songs, poems and extracts from flight reports, from all types and persons, famous or otherwise.

One song mentioned sung to 'I aint a-gonna grieve My Lord no more' which goes:

You'll never go to heaven in a Deffy Two
You ought to see that glycol spew

And that refers to the Defiant II. And there are many more.

It's a great read and if anyone can get their hands on one I recommend it.

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Old 6th Nov 2014, 09:40
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Thanks, I've put it on the reading list. A copy here for only a couple of pounds if anybody else fancies it:

Freedom's Battle - The War in the Air 1939-1945, An Anthology of Personal Experience. Freedom's Battle - The War in the Air 1939-1945, An Anthology of Personal Experience.
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 16:44
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No, what I say is that the market for WWII reminiscences is saturated now, self-publishing any more (for no publisher will take you on) is almost as good a way of losing money as buying Lottery Tickets.

To your "Defiant" jingle, I can add this from the States in '41:

"You cain't get to Heaven in a Ford V-8,
For the Devil, he drives a Chevrolet !"

(Someone may be able to put more couplets to it). Cheers, Danny
Old 6th Nov 2014, 16:57
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I penned an autobiography 5? years ago...went through the self publishing route and then discovered that I would have to chop rather a lot because of the libel act...
The exercise has cost me around £10,000 with an income of less than £1,000.
But researching the bibliography and feedback has explained a lot of what occurred in my career and the systems in place in the UK.
The best part is that it introduced me to pprune and this thread...priceless.
What you can do at virtually zero cost is convert your manuscript using a program for kobo...I will tackle it myself over the winter. The kobo is a cheap e-reader - I have two, one of which I have hacked and installed a vario and GPS for paragliding, so if I'm waiting on a mountain I can read until the take off conditions come on.
Part of the reason I wrote the book is that it is part of the real history of aviation in our time. good luck
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 17:23
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Re #6401

Yes Danny, only a fool neglected to upend his footwear before using it (!), and thanks for assuaging my guilt on the matter of tipping.

I am quite certain that our train from Calcutta was an ordinary public service. We did have a reserved carriage - or part of one -, but it was most certainly (very) third class.

Judging from contemporary video clips, rooftop travel is still feature of rail travel in that part of the world, especially in commuter zones; potentially lethal one would think in electrified areas such as Bombay, but perhaps some are not aware of any risk.

Indeed strange things happen in this country too. Remember the recent case, where an impatient potential passenger decided to put his ear to the rail as a means of finding out if his train was coming? Unfortunately he chose the third rail.................
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Old 6th Nov 2014, 17:33
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An Indian railway programme earlier this year highlighted the roof-riders and remarked that the 25000-volt catenary despatches a couple of passengers every month. It's safer by rail ... and thanks again for your wonderful stories
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