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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 31st Dec 2015, 12:06
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Happy New Year

To all the posters to this great thread, but particularly Danny, Harry M, Walter, Geri - long may your fascinating tales continue.


I was a bit confused by Jack's reference to Newbridge in his memoir but then you referred to Newchurch which I was able to look up in Action Stations Volume 9. I note the famous test pilot Roly ( sp. ? ) Beamont was Wing Ldr there at Jack's time.

Last edited by Brian 48nav; 31st Dec 2015 at 12:07. Reason: misplaced full stop
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Old 31st Dec 2015, 17:05
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Sorry Brian, of course it should be Newchurch. Usual brain birthday problem, too many of same. Now I'm off to confuse it still further and raise a glass of Laphroaig 150-octane to you all ....

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Old 31st Dec 2015, 17:21
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Nothing significant to add except ...

Happy New Year, everyone. and my sincere thanks to those who enlighten us about their past, and those who remind me about things from mine.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2016.
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Old 31st Dec 2015, 17:55
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Ginger Lacey

Readers of this 'Thread' may be interested to hear that the dreaded South American River has an offer for Kindle version of a Ginger Lacey biography

Ginger Lacey: Fighter Pilot eBook: Richard Townshend Bickers: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store Ginger Lacey: Fighter Pilot eBook: Richard Townshend Bickers: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store

Apparently he used to dangle me on his knee at Acklington round about 1948/49!!!

PZU - Out of Africa (Retired)

And Happy New Year to everyone when it comes
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Old 31st Dec 2015, 22:32
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7 years and 6 months ago Cliff Leach started this iconic PPRuNe thread, on 5th June 2008. Since then he, and others who followed him, have sadly passed on, but they will be forever gratefully remembered for so modestly yet so thoroughly telling us about gaining an RAF Pilots Brevet in WWII, etc (a small but most important addendum to the OP title).

To those who continue his good work, thank you gentlemen. I salute you, and wish you, and everyone here, a Happy New Year!
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Old 1st Jan 2016, 09:24
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Old Comrades

February passed into March (as usual!) and spring came. There was some improvement in the weather, and our flying prowess also improved, except for some of our unfortunate comrades. There were a number of fatalities at night, when aircraft inexplicably crashed to the ground, sometimes from great heights. Every crash meant the deaths of two more trainee aircrew. I heard a theory many years after the war, that carotene was the cause, in the pounds and pounds of carrots served to us with our meals, on the assumption that carotene was good for night vision. The new theory I heard was that carotene caused drowsiness to a greater or lesser degree, according to the metabolism of the individual.

My friend Harry Beck was one of the victims. I was up on an exercise one night, and heard the Control Tower making vain attempts to contact him. His call-sign was "Six-one" (61), and mine was "Six-five". He had been at about 10,000 feet for the purpose of his exercise, and simply plunged to earth for some mysterious reason. Fortunately, hwas flying solo on this occasion, and we didn't lose his observer. His death was a sad blow, especially when his mother telephoned me about a week later to ask about a dog she thought her son had recently bought.

About the beginning of April 1942, the great day came when we had finished our training on Blenheims and each was required to "go solo" on a Beaufighter before being posted to a Squadron. The Beaufighter was a very powerful twin-engined aircraft, allmetal, armed with six machine guns in the wings, and four 20mm cannons that fired through the nose. There was room in the front of the aircraft only for the pilot instructor. The pupil was required to stand behind him, in the "well" created by the entry and escape hatch when closed. In this hazardous position, I gasped with wonder at the surge of speed as we took off, a Warrant Officer pilot at the controls, and we swooped around the countryside with an overwhelming sense of power.

I watched the controls and instruments carefully, and at how the W/O was handling the 'plane. We landed beautifully, taxied to the hangar, and the instructor climbed out after giving me a few last-minute tips. Then I taxied out to the runway, called the Tower for permission to take-off, and was airborne, in what was virtually a repeat of my first solo on the Miles Magister. A most exciting and satisfying one hour of practice followed, and I was delighted to make a very passable landing at the end.

My posting was to No. 219 Squadron, stationed at Tangmere, near Chichester, a lovely old cathedral town on the south coast of England. My Radar Observer was Bob Hessey, another Londoner about my age. I don't think we were received very cordially on the Squadron. One of the members was Wing Commander Max Aitken, son of the late Lord Beaverbrook, who afterwards succeeded to his father’s title. My Flight Commander was Squadron Leader Wight-Boycott, but I didn't get to know him very well.

At interview by the Squadron CO on arrival, he asked me how many hours I had flown in the Beaufighter. “One hour sir” I told him. Imagine the look on his face. “One hour?” he said incredulously. “You’re no good to me yet” was a short version of his retort.

I was sent almost immediately to St.Athan, an Air Force Base in South Wales. Beaufighters were fitted there with the radar equipment essential for their role as night fighters. The equipment had to be tested before the aircraft were despatched to squadrons. My temporary job was to fly each newly-fitted aeroplane, with a radar engineer in the observer's back seat, putting the radar through its paces. In three or four weeks, I built up about 40 flying hours, and became much more useful when I returned to 219 Squadron.

Last edited by Walter603; 1st Jan 2016 at 23:21. Reason: Add title
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Old 1st Jan 2016, 16:30
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Training Policy Glitch.


How on earth did you manage to get to a Squadron without having first gone through a full Beaufighter OTU ? There would seem to have been only two OTUs (out of 60+) training on Beaufighters (unbelievable !), both Coastal, so you should have gone to one or the other, surely, instead of C.F. , which was:
...No. 54 Operational Training Unit RAF
No. 54 OTU was formed in November 1940 at RAF Church Fenton to train night fighter crews.[1]...
but seemingly just on Blenheims.

(Extract from)List of Royal Air Force Operational Training Units.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
...No. 3 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit RAF
No. 3 OTU was formed in 1940 as part of Coastal Command at RAF Catfoss for training aircrew on coastal command aircraft types like the Avro Anson and Bristol Beaufighter until it was disbanded 4 January 1944.[1]...
...No. 132 (Coastal) Operational Training Unit RAF
Formed in November 1942 at RAF East Fortune as part of No. 17 Group Coastal Command to train long-range fighter and strike training using the Bristol Blenheim and Bristol Beaufighter.[1]...
It would seem that you fell through the gap as 132 were not formed until after you needed them. So why not send you to Catfoss ?

You must have slipped through the net somehow. Luckily there was a job going for you at St.Athan to pile in the hours !

Cheers, Danny.
Old 1st Jan 2016, 17:19
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Far Away Places with Queer Sounding Names.

Chugalug (your #8002), and the wonderful link:

This is right up GlobalNav's street ! Marvellous reading !

(Your second link would keep us going for ever - but meat and drink to GlobalNav.

Now I venture to add a few words of my own by way of comment on the first link:

The ex-CBI "Roundup" takes you back. As we guessed, Ranikhet was a R & R facility - rather like my Gulmarg or Chakrata.

Commenting on the pictures, I would note:

(1) The US seems to have been able to do better than our humble charpoy !(but try carrying the whole lot around on your head down the street). Our nayee in Chakrata was supposed to have such a delicate touch that he could shave you without waking you up (never tried it !).

(2) Looks a ghastly place (and the "wild man" in [3] has only a few scraggy trees in the background). Hill stations were always well wooded, pleasant places. Naini Tal (not far to the south) was supposed to be lovely.

(3) Myitkina is pronounced "Mitchinar" (never mind what Wiki says !) Or at least, that was what we called it.

(4) A sad (but all too common) sight at the burning ghats down by the riverside. I suppose the Hoogly river at Calcutta counted as the Ganges for religious purposes - at least they ended up in the same estuary. A poor family would not be able to afford enough wood to do the job properly, but never mind - they chucked what was left into the river regardless. Anywhere along the thousand-mile length of the sacred Ganges, if you fell in, you did well to keep your mouth shut (but the locals splash about in it with impunity).
...He was bitten while trying to force feed the lethal eight-foot snake...
A king cobra, no less. Now that is asking for trouble ! (Rikki-tiki-tavi, we need you). Gila monster ? (must look it up).

Tibetan (possibly, but a long way south for them) salesmen - all you need to know is "Kitna Pice ?" Start by offering a third. Settle on a half.

(5) "Merrill's Marauders" - much the same as our Chindits.
... "79 day rooms down through Burma and Assam" ?...
"Day Rooms" - not sure what is meant. "Gung-Ho" (Press on regardless !), very well known this side of the pond. "Bath House" - who ever heard of such luxury ! You've got a four-gallon can of water and a bit of soap - be happy !

(6) "From the Statesman". Calcutta newspaper (think "Daily Telegraph"). Fatehpur Sikri, near Delhi, is 800 miles West of Calcutta. The rest is a sad story all over the world.

(7) "latrine rumors" (aka "latrinograms"), "before they "bas" at night" ("Bus", "Bas"= "Enough !")

(8) Remember Harold Wilson: "This will not affect the pound in your pocket !"

..."Capt. Robert Root, 26, of Chicago turned the controls over to Lt Clifford Anderson of New Rochelle, N.Y"...
The USAAF could afford two pilots on their "heavies". We couldn't. He took a whale of a chance, coming in wheels-down when you don't know what you're landing on (I don't believe it).
..."The Zero came in first, straffed the whole left side of the ship, swooped up in a screaming climb. And then the Oscar dove in"...
They would be two "Oscars" (almost identical to the Zero in appearance, and very near it in performance). But the Zero was carrier-based, would not be employed so far inland.


"By HARRY ZINDER Life and Time Correspondent" (So, a journalist. Might have pepped it up a bit ? ) Good show, anyway.

(13) Poor Calcutta - but all this is after Independence, so after my time. Famine was endemic in W.Bengal ("bustee" = "slum").

..."NEW DELHI-Imported cargo, worth about Rs 17 lakhs, was stolen from Indian ports within the last two years, UNI has learned from official quarters. The extent of loss involved in foreign exchange due to reissue of import licenses could not be determined"...
That should not surprise anybody with experience of the sub-continent ! (Lakh = 100,000)

...MADRAS [not "CHENNAI" yet ?] - Nearly Rs 10 lakhs worth of imported equipment meant for the Sabarigiri hydro-electric project in Kerala have been rendered useless because of the authorities' failure to store them properly. Steel punchings imported from the USA were kept out in the open at the project site for more than a year, and now are rejected by the American engineers associated with the project because they are covered with rust. The Kerala State Electricity board, responsible for the project, have contended that its officials were not aware of the need to store the equipment indoors...
Par for the Course !

...Railway System Helped Air Travel Third Class Carriage LifeBy S.Sgt. Karl Peterson (eBl ROlil/dup-jlllle 29, 1944)...
Wonderful ! Couldn't have said it better myself ! (indeed, I've said much the same myself). But in my day all officers travelled 1st Class. Other Ranks, 2nd Class (which was nearly as good). No European would dream of travelling in anything less.

(15) Book Reviews - no comment.

(16) - (19)
...Where the Old and New Co - Exist...
Very interesting. (No knowledge of Bhutan).

...HYDERABAD- Trains passing through drought-hit areas of Rayalaseema are having reserve police escorts to ensure that thirsty villagers do not hold up the trains to get water from the engines. The latest "holdup" was at Bainhal village in Kurnool district where the the train was mobbed and the driver forced to empty the tank...
Only in India ! (But, at halts, he would bleed enough from the boiler to fill a kettle, if asked nicely).

(21) Leprosy.

(22) No Comment.

...WOMEN carrying tiles for repairing roofs at the Ramgarh enlisted men's barracks. Photo by Andrew Janko...
Women do much of the heavy work out there.

...the little kids went to bed without getting the usual chapter from Kipling's "Jungle Book" read to them; I was still reading around midnight...
Better for them than "Harry Potter !"

A bit long, but never mind.

Cheers, both. Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 1st Jan 2016 at 17:24. Reason: Typo.
Old 2nd Jan 2016, 07:16
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Re your 8012 about OTU training: Ah....sweet mystery of life! I don't have a clue about all that missed training. What I've described is just how it happened. I knew of 15 2-man crews like mine, some of whom were posted to 600 (City of London) Squadron or to 604 Sqn. both were equipped with Beaufighters, and no doubt there were other astonished COs who wondered why they were receiving untrained aircrew.

I always wondered why I didn't receive proper pilot training for action, either at night or later by day, when I was sent to 603 with the Desert Air Force.

Similarly I had no formal training in the aiming and dropping of bombs. It was "go out and try your luck on the wreck just outside Tobruk Harbour".

I do wonder how we managed in the end to win the war!
More to come, Danny.
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 09:00
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What OTU?

Walter (and Danny)

Well, well, well, how fascinating to read of your experience, no OTU, just sent out into the world as you were. My late father has no OTU in his record of service either. After his multi-engine training at 6(P).A.F.U. Little Rissington in 1943 he was sent to Mauripur Karachi, (via Blackpool and Worli Bombay) and put to work (initially with 21 Ferry Control). Danny and I were really irritated by the omission of an OTU (his log book is meticulous apart from this one missing record), so thank you for posting that this, could, and did happen to you and others.

Happy New Year to all

Ian BB
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 10:09
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Now that Walter has put training aircraft behind him and is now flying his beloved Beaufighter, while Jack Stafford is well into his stride on the Typhoon, here are the Pilots Notes for these two fine WWII operational aircraft:-

A.P. 1721 F.H. & J Pilot's Notes for Beaufighter Mk VI ,TFX & XI

A.P. 1804 Pilot's Notes for Typhoon - Marks IA and IB Sabre II or IIA Engine - 2nd Edition
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 10:19
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We had one of the last Typhoon pilots on 33 Squadron in the early 70s. He would describe the getaway from a rocket attack as having the throttle wide open and feet OFF the rudder. The German gunners would set their offset in front of the aircraft but the torque would throw in so much skid that the shells would pass by a wingtip.
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 12:15
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Having spent the last month reading all 401 pages of this thread thus far, I just wanted to say thank you to all those who have contributed to make it, as Danny says, "the best of all threads".

I am woefully under qualified to contribute - my military/aviation career consisting of 3 years in the school CCF RAF Section encompassing many afternoons on Primary glider bungy duty on the school playing fields, and half a dozen flights with 5AEF from Marshalls in Cambridge (including stick time mainly on Chipmunks, but also on the infamous Husky - much to the distress of the backseat occupants who knew it was my first time at the controls!).

The one thing I would like to ask, but suspect there may be no one around who can really answer it, is what the Marshalls input was to the RAF training in the early war years. I have heard it said that they developed a much improved training scheme which was subsequently adopted as the standard RAF training scheme. I'm guessing that anyone who was trained by Marshalls would be even older than our current 'senior' aircrew - but you never know.
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 14:56
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Walter's alarming description of his conversion to the Beaufighter is supported by my latest book, Night Fighter over Germany by Graham White (Kindle Books, only 99p). White provides his own delightful illustrations such as the one above showing the abandonment procedure and the hatch upon which the student pilot had to stand. He mixes dry humour on the absurdities of Service life with gripping detail. Here's his take on Beaufighter instruction:

I stood behind the instructor-pilot, peering over his shoulder trying to see how he flew the thing. Actually you could see the square root of sod-all, but you were standing on the escape hatch, which bore a remarkable resemblance to a hangman’s trap-door. So not surprisingly you spent the trip remembering that he operated the lever that opened it, and trying very hard not to annoy him. After that you read up the technical notes on the plane, then took off and flew it on your own – the first time that you had handled the controls – while the rest of the aircrew watched at the end of the runway, making ribald comments about your incompetence to your new and nervous navigator.

His OTU at Charterhall in the Scottish borders was soon renamed Slaughterhall, and with good reason.

Eighty-four Mark II Beaufighters were sent to Charterhall. Thirty-nine of them (that is forty-six per cent) crashed, eighteen of them during take-off, landing, or overshooting. Four force-landed, six plunged into the sea, five into the ground, four caught fire in the air, and two simply disappeared off the face of the earth.
If you read this thread, you'll love this book. How about this account of a Mosquito intruder trip over Germany …
It was late at night, Christmas was coming up and maybe we weren’t keeping quite as sharp an electronic eye open as we should have. Suddenly, a Scottish burr in our earphones snapped out a challenge, ‘Bogey, bogey! Turn starboard!’ ‘Bogey’ meant unidentified aircraft, and this was a warning call. A free-ranger like ourselves was behind an unknown aircraft close by and making a final check before opening fire. Aircraft hearing this would immediately turn sharp right, showing that it was British. A couple of dozen planes must have hurriedly, and simultaneously, turned right in response to the challenge. So how did we know that it was us he was behind? Because, momentarily surprised, I turned left.

Our earphones crackled with Caledonian indignation: ‘I said “Starboard”, you prat!’ ‘Sorry!’ I hurriedly turned in the opposite direction. ‘Okay!’ he called, ‘Happy Christmas!’ and went on his way. Or presumably he did – we saw nothing from start to finish.
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 15:17
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What is it ?


Let me be the first to welcome you to our Cybercrewroom in the firmament, where good fellowship prevails and no harsh word may be spoken (if you've managed to read it through from Post No.1 - 401, then "War and Peace" or "Das Kapital" should be a doddle).
...The one thing I would like to ask, but suspect there may be no one around who can really answer it...
That's fighting talk !

Without doing any research, I believe the general syllabus of military flying training was laid down for the RFC in WWI by a Colonel Smith-Barry, carried over to the RAF and adopted in its essentials by every air force in the developed world. Marshall's came along much later and would have been obliged to follow it.

Marshall's of Cambridge supplied the pilots for the (RAF's) aircraft that flew for the JATCS at Shawbury in my time; earlier they had taken over both our task and our aircraft when 20 Sqdn was disbanded at Valley in 1951. As its contractors, they have been associated with the RAF for ages.

Now let's hear about your aviating. What was a Husky, for a start ? [Googled: got a lot of pics but no info. Looks like a Piper Cub ].

Old 2nd Jan 2016, 15:49
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Fog of War

Walter (your #8014),

My experience was the opposite - I did 75 hrs on the Spitfire at 57 OTU - and then didn't fly one again for seven years !
..I do wonder how we managed in the end to win the war!...
Those Germans must have been damned inefficient, that's all I can say....!

Old 2nd Jan 2016, 16:18
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...The one thing I would like to ask, but suspect there may be no one around who can really answer it...
That's fighting talk !
Hi Danny,

Probably should have phrased that better - I meant no one around still with first hand experience

I'll go and do some homework and report back - I think there is something interesting there, which predates the training schemes you guys experienced.

Now let's hear about your aviating. What was a Husky, for a start ?
It's very kind of you to show interest, but seriously, I can fit it all in a single post, and I really feel out of place in this of all threads!

This thread should tell you everything you need to know about the Husky - it was the only one operated by the RAF (alongside the more usual UAS/AEF Bulldogs and Chipmunks): http://www.pprune.org/military-aviat...e-she-now.html

My first ever flight was in this aircraft in 1985/86, and once we were up I was handed control ("You have control", "I have control, Sir") and given a heading to fly us to Duxford. The two guys in the back seat were not amused at this point, knowing it was my first time at the controls of an aircraft! As we approached Duxford our pilot took over for a low level pass along the museum flight line before taking her back up and handing back to me to turn her round and take her back to Marshalls, where he landed her. Pilot may well have been Jonny Blackmore (he definitely flew me in the Chipmunks) who we have always referred to as "W/C Blackmore" although I have no recollection of whether that was his actual rank!

All my other flights (4 or 5 of approx. 30m duration - sadly my 'logbook' is missing in action) were in Chipmunks and usually involved some flying about under instruction or aerobatics, sometimes in the vicinity of my parents house We were encouraged to have hands on stick and feet on rudder pedals during the aerobatics (and then being complemented on "having flown that last loop rather well" or similar - although impossible to know how far off the controls the pilot's hands/feet were!). Proud to say I never needed the paper bag, but did experience grey-out during some of the aerobatics.

My school was in Cambridge and we would cycle to Marshalls Airport after lunch on the appointed days. After the classic AEF briefing video (how to open Chipmunk canopy and bale out - the infamous "Jump, Johnny, Jump" video), we would then be kitted out with headsets/helmets and parachute - an interesting experience as you were strapped in to it whilst sat on a chair and the straps pulled so tight that you had to walk to the aircraft, climb up on the wing and finally in to the cockpit whilst seemingly bent almost double.

And that, I'm sad to say, is the entirety of my aviation experience (other than pax in airliners) spread over 1985/6/7. But I've never forgotten it, and still occasionally reminisce about it with one of my schoolmates who was also in the RAF section. We could never understand why anyone would choose the Army (lots of yomping around with heavy kit) or Navy (mucking about in a small dinghy on a large pond) sections, when we got to fly for real in the RAF section.

Happy days, but very off-topic now for this thread...
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 19:10
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Ab Initio ('Creamy') Instructor Training Scheme

Hi Danny,

Have now done some homework, and although Marshalls trained order of 20,000 aircrew through the war (including 600-700 pilots prior to BoB), it was their 'Ab Initio' Instructor Training Scheme which was innovative and subsequently adopted by the RAF - as per this quote:

"Sir Arthur Marshall actually invoked a scheme to train instructors from scratch. The usual route was for senior pilots in the RAF to progress to become instructors regardless of their enthusiasm or aptitude for that task. Marshall decided to take trainees on from scratch - if they were good pilots and had the aptitude he'd teach them to become instructors.

"In 1941, his 'Ab Initio' Flying Instructor Scheme was adopted universally by the RAF and it still exists to this day, known as the 'Creamy' Flying Instructor Scheme.

"Air Marshall Sir John Day commented in recent years that had the Marshall scheme been introduced at the very beginning of the war, there would have been no shortage of pilots for the Battle of Britain."

They received their first Tiger Moths in 1938 and they've been teaching people to fly in them ever since (there are still two flying out of Marshalls, and you can still train for your PPL in them - might be a fun way to resume my aviating, one day).

So there you go - and with that I'll return to lurking in a corner of the crew room, mug of tea in hand, listening to the illustrious senior members with real tales to tell...
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 21:06
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How we Won the War


Our superiority over the Germans at warfare was explained by a German exchange officer at Lyneham many years ago now.

During a TACEVAL(for the uninitiated, Tactical Evaluation or practice bleeding pretending that WWIII had been declared), said EO watched the inevitable chaos for a while and then remarked (needs a German accent for full effect) "Now I know how you won the War, you practise chaos!"

After the Transall crashed in Crete somebody told him "You never did do very well in Crete." He agreed but (again accent needed) " You are right but, tell you what, we'll take you on the best of 5!"
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Old 2nd Jan 2016, 21:11
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...we would then be kitted out with headsets/helmets and parachute - an interesting experience as you were strapped in to it whilst sat on a chair and the straps pulled so tight that you had to walk to the aircraft, climb up on the wing and finally in to the cockpit whilst seemingly bent almost double.
Grandson did his first AEF flight in a Grob Tutor at Benson a couple of weeks ago. I believe the parachutes are more manageable now, but I'm no expert. He still needed the riser cushion to get him up to the right height.
Photos taken on his big day below:

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