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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 14th Dec 2015, 15:56
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Air Supplying the Chindits in Burma

My father, (Captain, later Major) Harold ('Harry') Pettinger, who died last year aged 93 was responsible for the air supply of the special forces Chindits in Burma in 1943/44, using Dakotas and gliders. He was also involved with the building and supply of the jungle airstrips established well behind Japanese lines. He took part in many airdrops over map references in the jungle (including on one occasion £10,000 worth of gold sovereigns ) He spoke of this only in his last years, but was full of praise for the pilots flying in impossible conditions throughout the monsoon season. Some of the flying, landing and take-offs he described almost defy belief, though dad was not given to exaggeration. Flying in cloud, often below tree level, in cloud shrouded mountains, with heavily overloaded Dakotas, and landing on rough, timber strewn and boggy landing strips, and (more often than not) getting the aeroplanes off again, while under fire.

A couple of years ago , shortly before he became unable to walk, the Battle Of Britain Memorial Flight allowed him to wander around and in their Dakota, which meant a huge amount to him, and unleashed many more memories.

My brothers and I would love to hear from anyone who may remember him, or indeed anyone who has similar memories.
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Old 14th Dec 2015, 21:07
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pettinger93

I don't have memories being a baby-boomer, but I can recommend the book 'First in the Indian skies" by Norman L R Franks, the history of 31 Sqn. 31 were equipped with Dakotas and involved with supporting the Chindits and also flying 'The Hump' to China.
One of their pilots, Mike Vlasto ( who used to live in my then village in Somerset ) was IIRC the first to land a Dakota in a jungle clearing and take-off again with wounded soldiers.
Another book on my shelf mentions Vlasto and I note that your father is mentioned several times - 'War in the Wilderness' by Tony Redding.
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Old 14th Dec 2015, 21:35
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Danny42C
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Chindits.


pettinger93
,

Let me be the first to welcome you aboard on this Best of Threads on the Best of Forums ! Come on in, the water's fine ! If you're like me, you'll have watched us from the sidelines for a while before putting your oar in, so you know what sort of people we are and what we natter about (and what forgiving Moderators we have). Now I'll take you up on your:
...My brothers and I would love to hear from anyone who may remember him, or indeed anyone who has similar memories...
I was in India/Burma late'42 - early'46 (p114/#2262, India starts around p.129 on this Thread). Ask what you like, someone here will have the answer.

Of course we knew all about Brigadier Orde Wingate and the Chindits (Chindit is a corrupted form of the Burmese mythical beast Chinthé or Chinthay, statues of which guarded Buddhist temples.[1].....Wiki) A Chinthe head was their "logo", a unit badge on the shoulder). We, who knew how rough things could be on "our" side of the jungle in the Monsoon, were full of admiration for them. They were dropped from the air into Japanese-occupied Burma, supplied from the air, and had to build their own primitive airstrips from which they (hoped) to be airlifted at the end of the operation.

The Americans had their own 1st Air Commando Group (doing much the same, but further North).

Danny42C.
 
Old 14th Dec 2015, 21:53
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Antonovs and Hastings.

Chugalug,

If that's what you had to do to keep a Ukranian nosewheel job right way up on the tarmac and pointed in the right direction, I shudder to think what a Hastings might have been like !

No wonder our ATC troops all made their wills when they found that the trip to Warton (to see the new "Strikemaster") for which they'd volunteered, was to be flown by a Hastings.

Danny.
 
Old 15th Dec 2015, 00:52
  #7865 (permalink)  
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Global Nav (your #7841 AND MY #7864),
...Dad eventually became a flight mechanic - aircrew - on C-47's and C-46's. Was introduced to a famous US pilot, Philip Cochran, during his action in/over Burma...
Cochran commanded the 1st Air Commando Group in Burma. Among his glider pilots was Jackie Coogan (the child star of the 1921 Chaplin film "The Kid"), who was now a "Flight Officer" (Warrant Officer) in the USAAC. The two (both dead now) are often confused

There was a scabrous story going the rounds in India in the latter part of the war. Coogan had been (briefly) married to a Betty Grable (a famous film star of the day, also deceased) before the war. He was reputed to introduce himself with the words: "Shake the hand that held the p###k that f####d Betty Grable". There is no evidence to support this.

Danny42C.
 
Old 15th Dec 2015, 09:12
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Coogan had been (briefly) married to a Betty Grable (a famous film star of the day, also deceased) before the war.

And Betty Grable does indeed deserve her own place in the "Best of Threads" since, for some obscure reason, I recalled the famous shot of her "Million Dollar Legs", looked it up, and read on to discover that she had starred as a WAAF in a 1941 film https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Yank_in_the_R.A.F.



Jack
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 10:19
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Antonovs & Hastings

If that's what you had to do to keep a Ukranian nosewheel job right way up on the tarmac and pointed in the right direction, I shudder to think what a Hastings might have been like !
Some people flew the Britannia like that! Rather than stirring pudding, firmly placing the yoke where you wanted it, then waiting for a reaction worked better.
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 10:43
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petinger39 welcome to the site.
My father was on the receiving end of the supplies dropped, he was a Chindit whilst with the Kings Liverpool Regiment.
Like many others he hardly ever talked about his experiences which was not surprising with what they went through. Dad was wounded during an ambush by the enemy receiving machine gun wounds breaking both legs and loss of thumb top and two finger tops. He survived by being carried back to a jungle airstrip by the Gurkha soldiers that were with them. Flown out in an American light casualty evac plane to hospital in India where he received treatment.
We lost Dad in 1971 under very upsetting circumstances which with hindsight was a result of what he had gone through we call it post traumatic stress these days.
I did some research and have a copy of his army service which details his movements and medical history which makes pretty grim reading in parts. I was lucky enough to make contact and meet another soldier from his Regiment who had been in the Indian hospital with him sadly he has also passed but thankful I had the opportunity to have met and talked with him. I will always remember his reaction when I showed him a photograph of Dad in uniform, he immediately recognised him and recalled their days together. I was invited to the Chindits Association Dinner and had the opportunity to meet their members, RAF veterans included.
Chindits Special Force Burma 1943-1944
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 13:12
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Javelinboy / Dannyboy42c / Brian48nav

Great to hear from you all. My father was injured while training for the first Chindit operation, and was not medically recovered enough for the second one, which was probably lucky for him ( and me), as not many came back out of the jungle alive. Dad was then employed as second in command, and then in command, of the air supply operation for the second operation.


It was the USAF who flew Ord Wingate into a mountain in cloud after the RAF said the weather was too bad to fly. My father was the officer responsible for manufacturing and placing the brass plaque on the crash site to commemorate Ord Wingate : Dad was very proud of this. The plaque has subsequently been replaced on site by a bigger / better memorial, but the original brass plaque is now in the care of the Imperial War Museum.


Dad worked with the Gurkas, and we still have a Gurka 'kukri' knife that he treasured. He also spoke with warmth about the local Naga hill tribe in the region who helped and saved many lives at great risk to their own.


I believe that Dad had been in touch with Mr Redding at some point when the book 'War in the Wilderness' was being written.


(Prior to his Burmese escapades, Dad had been wounded and had won the Military Cross as a 2nd Lieutenant, aged 21, during the first Tobruk siege in the N African Desert.)
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 13:38
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"Coogan had been (briefly) married to a Betty Grable (a famous film star of the day, also deceased) before the war. He was reputed to introduce himself with the words: ..."

I can't imagine that Coogan earned much respect from his comrades. I'd rather remember meeting Phil Cochran. I suppose we are the same people in uniform as out of it, just different purposes and experiences.

My hat is off to Pettinger93's father, JavelinBoy's father and the men they served with. The combat, jungle and disease must have been awful. God bless their memory. The exact role my father played, except that he was a flight engineer on C-47's and C-46's, I do not exactly know. I think it must have involved airlift and airdrop operations for the forces fighting in Burma.

Last edited by GlobalNav; 15th Dec 2015 at 16:40.
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 14:51
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Further to my earlier post regarding the Chindits in Burma one of the vetrans I got to know was Jack Lindo from Liverpool. Jack was a regular soldier in The Kings (Liverpool) Regiment and recorded his experiences with the Chindits in a book he published titled 'From Dingle to Delhi'.
The book follows his life from a youngster in Liverpool and through the Second World War. It is available on that well known South American river site
https://books.google.co.uk/books/abo...d=CG3iZwEACAAJ

One snippet of info I did get from my father was that his chum had received a leg injury so was unfit for taking part in jungle patrols, he volunteered to fly on the air drops as he was fit enough to kick the supply packs out of the door with his good leg. He failed to return from a mission and the aircraft and crew were never found.
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 16:31
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Just had another look at Wiki on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Yank_in_the_R.A.F and thought that this snippet might be of some interest, not least to our Senior Pilot:

"With principal photography shot from April to July 1941, the film leaned heavily on the headline news of the Battle of Britain. The film begins with U.S. North American Harvard trainers arriving at the U.S.| Canada border at the Emerson, Manitoba crossing, as a means of complying with provisions of the Neutrality Acts prohibiting aid to combatants. The depiction of R.C.M.P. and R.C.A.F. officials meeting the aircraft as they were towed across the border, is a bit of Hollywood license, but the incident is otherwise, mainly accurate, albeit usually a team of horses rather than motor vehicles, did the towing."

Jack
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 20:05
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Unfinished Business.

Before starting on the current, magnificent rush of Posts, there are a few rounds left in the magazine........Standby One !

---------------------------------------------


Geriaviator
(your #7840, speaking for Jack Stafford [RIP], as he hauls it ever tighter with Gus's "rat-a-tat-tats" in his ears):
...with effort, aching and soaked with sweat, I pulled even harder...
Reminds me of my dive-bombing days in Burma with a Vultee Vengeance. I did 100-120 practice dives, 52 operational and just one "demonstration" after that (which did not, as you may recall, turn out too well !) We'd worked out, by "trial and error", that in a "perfect" dive, starting from 10-12,000, and coming down vertically with dive brakes out and 1/3 throttle, you'd certainly work up to your terminal velocity of 300 mph long before you reached pull-out at 3500 on the ASI (this would be about 3000 AGL true, as the instrument lagged).

At this an average chap, pulling as hard as he could up to "grey-out", should get the thing level at 1000 ft. Of course, operationally, you'd just ease it out to finish among the tree tops where you were pretty well out of harm's way from ground fire. But your "leeway" was just this 1000 ft, and as you started vertical with 300 on the clock (and that translates as 440 ft/sec), so you had 2.3 secs to play with 'tween life and death. Not a lot.

Accordingly, you pulled - and I can feel for Jack Stafford !

Danny.

----------------------------------------------

Walter (your #7834)
...broke out of camp over the barbed wire..
.
In every camp I was on during the war, there was always, somewhere on the perimeter, a spot where you could come and go without the tedious business of booking-in and out at the Guardroom. Often it would be strategically placed near a bus stop - and on country lanes, most cars would give a lift, and a bus would always pick up a man in uniform anywhere. Curiously enough, although "everybody" knew where these places were, only the SPs (feigned ?) ignorance.

Danny.

---------------------------

Walter (your #7833)
...I think 5 died on our course; one was another mate, Harry Beck who went out on a solo night flight and came back in a bag...
I remember that my Advanced School at Craig Field, Selma, Ala, lost three students killed on Class 42C - and I never even knew about it until I was hunting down statistics for a Post on this Thread. In my defence, I must say that each Course at Advanced School consisted of students from several different Basic Schools, each of which would comprise students from several different Primary Schools. So most of the ones around you at the end would be complete strangers, you would have only a few who'd come (as in my case) all the way with me from Carlstrom to Gunter to Craig.

And, I'm sorry to say, the loss of a stranger meant little in those days (one among so many every day). You got used to it - you had to.

Danny.

-----------------------------------------

Geriaviator (your #7840),
...It's clear from the following post that first experience of 'real' combat flying was a shattering experience...
As I recall, the policy in my time was to put the young men through a 75-hour Course on the fighter they'd be flying in action, tell them what to do and what not to do, waste no ammo on towed targets (which behave nothing like the enemy they'd soon be facing), and hand them over to their Squadrons, having fired nothing more lethal than the popgun they'd had when they were small.

There they learned their trade much as you learn to ride a bike - get on it and have a go ! Oddly enough, it worked quite well (but not, unfortunately, for everyone) - the 'aces' self-selected.

Danny.

----------------------------------------------


GlobalNav
(your #7841),
...He was an aircraft mechanic, who assembled from crates of parts packed in cosmoline, many different types...
Extract from my Post p.120 #2383:
...At Craig they decided that. as allied combatants, we should now bear arms, and so we learned American arms drill. The US seemed to be better off than we were in the UK, and had a large stock of Springfield rifles kept in mothballs since 1918. So we did not have to use "pretend" wooden rifles, or pickhelves, as we (and the Home Guard) had to do in the early part of the War. It might have been better for us if we had, for these museum pieces had been inhibited against corrosion when they put them away in 1918. They'd been smothered in an evil Vaseline-like goo. It has a trade name, which I've forgotten.* Twenty years of drying out had turned this into a coating which wouldn't shame a rhinoceros. We had to shift this stuff, and the only way was with steel wool, kerosene and elbow grease.

It's a wonder we had any prints left on our fingertips. To this day, I can't smell paraffin without recalling the hours spent on that miserable chore. Thankfully, we only had to clean them externally, so as to make them look nice. To clean out the bores would have been an awful job: even if it had been done. I wouldn't have cared to be the man who fired the first round through them. Looking back, I suppose the only reason we got them in the first place was that nobody in the US forces would touch them for love or money...
Note *: COSMOLINE ! (Got it after all these years !)

"So he assembled from crates of parts".... The first batch of Vultee Vengeances (US A-31) came out 'CKD' at the end of 1942 (completely knocked down), like those flatpack kits which "Require Simple Home Assembly". But the assembly manuals were missing, they had to be assembled by a sort of three-dimensional jigsaw at Mauripur (inland from Karachi). Or so the story goes.

It's a terribly long shot, but if he was out there at that time, did he ever mention hearing about that ?

Danny.

------------------------------------------

Walter (your #7847)
...instructor, whilst he did a quick take-off and a couple of circuits, talking meanwhile and pointing to various controls and instruments, then landing, disembarking and saying the usual "You've got her. Jump in and buckle up. Good luck"...
Yes, it was odd, after all the Courses we'd been on, and the way that we'd been carefully converted onto each successive training type only after a number of hours dual on each, that at the end we were given the most powerful and complicated front-line machinery in such a casual way.

My experience was exactly the same, I was shown the front cockpit, then put into the back of a Vultee Vengeance, poked the (removable) stick into its socket; all I had was a throttle and rudder bar to go with it. Sgt Reg Duncan (RCAF) took off, trimmed it, handed over and let me play with it for half an hour (of course, I couldn't attempt to land without u/c or flap controls, no wheelbrakes, and no trims).

Then he took it back and landed. "All yours now, chum !". I was, it seemed, a fully qualified VV pilot.

Danny.

-----------------------------------------

GlobalNav (your #7848),
...By the looks of it and imagining it in the hand of a fiercesome bearded turbaned Sikh, I guess I'd be running for my life too...
But if it were a kukri, and in the hand of a small, harmless looking, but clearly annoyed Gurkha, you'd better run twice as fast !

All European males were "Sahibs". Their wives were "Mem-Sahibs", their small sons "Chota (small) Sahibs", their unmarried daughters "Miss-Sahibs". "Babu" was the generic term for a Chief Clerk and the like. The boss of any undertaking was the "Burra" (Great) Sahib. All you needed to know in India was "Kitna Pice ?" ("how much ?", literally, "how many pice ?", the pice being the smallest coin, 1/12 of an anna, an anna 1/16 of a rupee, a rupee then worth £1/14, so about 30 US cents).

Now the Indian rupee is around £1/90, the Pakistan one about £1/120, the £ about $1.50, so it gets a bit complicated. I think they've done away with pice now (I never saw one, so I don't know what it looked like, the smallest coin we used was the anna). That was worth then the same as a 1943 "Penny", which was 1/12 of a Shilling ("Bob"), which was 1/20 of a Pound ("Quid"). which was 20/21 of a Guinea.......

Aren't you glad you won the War of Independence ?

Danny.
 
Old 15th Dec 2015, 20:45
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Danny, thank you for filling in some of the gaps.

I don't know that my Dad ever mentioned specific bases, but if he did I don't recall. He did serve near Karachi during his three years in India. The types I remember him mentioning were the P-38 and P-47, but I expect he worked on many more types as well. He did say that the airplanes arrived in crates of pieces, and that there were tech reps to guide the mechanics as they put the "puzzle" together. He implied that it was incredibly crazy, but they did their very best. I believe him. Your description of how they removed that awful "gunk" cosmoline sounds about right. Pretty strange some of the things you guys had to do just to fight a war.

Later during his time in India, he served close enough to Burma, that for awhile the possibility of Japanese attack of his base was at least contemplated by his superiors. I know that the 80th Pursuit had a base northeast of Calcutta, equipped with P-38's and P-47's. He told me that his personal weapon, a carbine, was constantly with him then. Perhaps he was sent there. But I shouldn't be guessing, not with you guys who were actually there.

To this day, I remember when my Dad asked me if I needed money by saying, "Need some rupees?" At the time I didn't even get it.

Last edited by GlobalNav; 16th Dec 2015 at 00:20.
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Old 15th Dec 2015, 23:27
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A Yank in the RAF

The complete film can be viewed here on YouTube:-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Cpa8RMtrGI

viewed, but not entirely heard I'm afraid as the songs have been dubbed out (sorry Danny!), so please do not adjust your sets. There may be some quibble about the use of Lockheed Hudsons on night close formation raids over Berlin and Dortmund, or the special effects and studio shots of a dog fight over Dunkirk, but there was a war on you know!

Ms. Grable is exquisite, the RAF tailoring is exquisite, the shots of Spitfires are exquisite, so enjoy!
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Old 16th Dec 2015, 03:20
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Danny42C
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JAVELIN BOY
...My father was on the receiving end of the supplies dropped, he was a Chindit whilst with the Kings Liverpool Regiment...
My father served his 22 years in the King's Liverpools, finishing as a RQMS after WWI. His father was a Sergeant in the Regiment, too; my Dad was born in Rawalpindi in 1875. You'll know:

♫... "Here's to Maiden of blushing sixteen,
Here's to the Widow of fifty,
Here's to the wilful, extravagant Queen,
And now to the woman that's thrifty...."


"Let the Toast pass, drink to the Lass -
I'll warrant you'll find an excuse for the Glass !"...♫

(the Regimental March)

I clicked on your link, well worth a read. From it, an extract:
...There were two Chindits expeditions into Burma, the first in February 1943 Operation Longcloth, consisted of a force of 3,000 men who marched over 1,000 miles during the campaign. The second expedition, Operation Thursday, in March 1944 was on a much larger scale. It was the second largest airborne invasion of the war and consisted of a force of 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers with air support provided by the 1st Air Commando USAAF. Tragically their leader, General Wingate, was killed a few weeks after the launch of Operation Thursday...
Immediately following it was the The Battle of the Admin Box in the Arakan (sometimes referred to as the Battle of Ngakyedauk [colloq. "Okydoke Pass"] or the Battle of Sinzweya). For the first time, a major British formation, bypassed by a Japanese infiltration which cut its LOC, did not retreat, but stood its ground. Supplied and defended by air (using the techniques developed by the Chindits), Messervy's Corps turned the tables on the encircling Japs, whose turn it now was to find themselves starving and cut off from supplies from their main force.

The 14th Army had the upper hand from then on in the Arakan, they were pushing the Jap back south towards Akyab. He reacted in the usual way, digging-in at strongpoints and fighting to the death in them. The Vengeance squadrons came into their own, digging them all out again (complete with occupants).

Danny42C.
 
Old 16th Dec 2015, 03:54
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Danny42C
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It ain't arf sharp, Mum !

pettinger93 (your #7870 - re kukris),

From my Post on this Thread, p.137 #2726:
...The kukri was a most imposing piece of hardware, with its silver-banded grip, and the kit of two small skinning knives fitted into a silver-mounted scabbard. It came home with me, and on my return I ran into "Bert" Andrews, my pre-war line manager (and an ex-Captain in the RFC, flying Sopwith Camels). He'd climbed two rungs on the Civil Service ladder while I'd been away, and was now an S.E.O. in another Department.

Before the war, he'd kept me spellbound with tales of his adventures, and when I went into the RAF gave me one of his old RFC tunic buttons for good luck. This has the same crown and eagle as an RAF button but with a "rope" design round the rim. I kept it for long enough, but somewhere it had got lost. Never mind, I'd had all the luck I could reasonably hope for.

Bert had a teenage son who was an avid collector of exotic swords and knives. I passed the kukri on to him. There wasn't much call for them in Southport then. (Nowadays we'd have the Armed Response Squad round within the hour!)...
Danny42C.
 
Old 16th Dec 2015, 04:07
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Brian 48nav (your #7863),
...One of their pilots, Mike Vlasto ( who used to live in my then village in Somerset ) was IIRC the first to land a Dakota in a jungle clearing and take-off again with wounded soldiers...
The name rings a bell, but I can't figure out the context. Wasn't there a film made about the incident, with a title like "Three Miles East of Kalewa", or something of the sort ?

Danny42C.
 
Old 16th Dec 2015, 04:22
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Chugalug (your #7876),
... There may be some quibble about the use of Lockheed Hudsons on night close formation raids...
Three "Bettys" set out in formation with their nav lights on to bomb Calcutta. Unfortunately the pretty display drew the attention of a F/Sgt Pring, who was on patrol with a Beaufighter.

He crept up behind and blew all three out of the air, for which he got a DFM. Was shot down later himself and killed in Burma.

It's just the way it is. Danny.
 
Old 16th Dec 2015, 04:49
  #7880 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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GlobalNav (your #7875),
...He told me that his personal weapon, a carbine, was constantly with him then...
But he wouldn't need to carry it all the time. India and our part of Burma was fairly safe. I had a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver, but it only came out of my "tin box" (aka Uniform Case), when I wore it when flying on ops.

Would much sooner have had a .45 Colt automatic pistol like your lot (more stopping power).

But then you chaps were sweltering in slacks, while we were nice and cool in shorts. It's six of one and half-a-dozen of the other !

Danny.
 

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