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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 11th Feb 2016, 10:58
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Danny, given the choice between reading your own personal memories of those turbulent times and the official record, whether written at the time by yourself or others (such as MPN11 ;-), I'll take your flawed, fallible, and all too human account every time.

When I was 6 I had to walk my younger brother, then 3, to his playgroup before retracing my steps and then heading off further for my own school. That daily hike is etched into my memory, especially because of the then hard winter. I have revisited that journey as an adult. It has shrunk considerably, but the important thing is the impression it made on me then, and as I therefore remembered it.

As you say, we remember what was important to us, not a complete chronological account. I would suggest that is the point of this thread. What was it like to be there in those dangerous and turbulent times? So, Danny42C rather than F540 any day of the week for me!
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Old 12th Feb 2016, 06:09
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Old Comrades

I was discharged from Atbara Army Hospital (thankfully) and given passage on a Nile River boat, going to Wadi Halfa. I spent three days on the craft, which was just like a large houseboat. I was in a very bare cabin - only the floor to sleep on, covered by a light blanket. On board was a sizeable troop of British Army Commandoes who had been raiding well behind the German lines in the Western Desert.

They had trekked back southwards after a series of exploits, right into the desert, before striking eastwards and marching until they reached Sudan. They were now on their way back to Egypt, and making the most of a happy return to civilisation. There were noisy and boozy parties each evening, with all the ribald Army songs sung at top pitch.

We steamed slowly northwards through the barren Egyptian land, and it wasn't long before I saw some of the marvellous antiquities of this ancient place. Along the banks of the Nile were the burial places of the Pharaohs, and I wished we had the opportunity to stop and visit them. I tried hard to remember them, where they were and who they commemorated (as much as I could learn from the not-friendly houseboat crew). I think we passed through the Valley of the Kings, there were magnificent huge stone carvings on the river banks, and later on, we passed the Isle of Phyla, where there were more tombs and wonderful carvings.

We arrived in Wadi Halfa on the third day. The heat was still blistering. We had to transfer from the river boat to the train for Cairo. I was lucky to be with an Army Corporal, Ted Willis, who had been with me in the Sick Quarters at Atbara. He had been studying Arabic for some time and could speak it well. He was able to organise a couple of good seats on the train for us, and to call for drinks while we were travelling in reasonable comfort that night.

I think that it took us about 24 hours to get to Cairo. I reported to Air Headquarters, and was reunited with my Air Force mates, first at a city hotel, where they had been billeted for the past two weeks, then very quickly we were transferred to Almazan, a Transit Camp near Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb that also boasted a fair sized airport.

At Almaza we were to languish for what seemed ages, and was actually about 8 or 9weeks. Obviously the Air Force didn't want night fighters. The place was crammed with air crew, both longterm and transient personnel who had come over from the African coast to deliver 'planes, or were on their way to other war zones.

While we were at Almaza with nothing to do, the war was proceeding apace. The Allies were fighting strenuously at El Alamein, only 60 miles west of us, at the furthest point to which the brilliant German Field Marshal Rommel had driven them along the North African coast. We used to see the weary soldiers in the streets of Cairo, some back for a hurried 24 hour or 48 hour break from the fighting. They were stained yellow - clothing, skin and hair - from the sands of the Western Desert. Starved of official information, we anticipated that we would soon be posted to active units.

Meanwhile, we lived in comparative luxury in our tents at Almaza, and were able to go out practically at will. There were no duties for us, except an almost-daily parade and roll-call, which was a farce.

On 23rd October 1942, the Allies struck with an almighty offensive, and the tide was turned. Rommel had almost reached Egypt, where he would have driven the Allies from the Canal Zone and been in a commanding position to take over the Middle East. We heard the shelling in Cairo, and met many fellow aircrew returning from the thick of the fighting. It became galling that we were hanging around with nowhere to go. Trained aircrew, but with inappropriate skills!

Last edited by Walter603; 12th Feb 2016 at 06:12. Reason: spacing
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Old 12th Feb 2016, 07:12
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Old Comrades.

Walter, your:
...It became galling that we were hanging around with nowhere to go. Trained aircrew, but with inappropriate skills!...
strikes a chord with me ! A bunch of us, some 36 strong, landed in India in late '42. All had come straight from Spitfire or Hurricane OTUs (about 50/50) in the UK, and were keen to put our specialised training to good use. The fighter-trained Hurricane boys were mostly used in ground-attack or as ferry pilots; the Spitfire contingent were even worse off, there were no Spitfires out there at that time, and it was only for the providential arrival, some months earlier, of the unwanted Vultee Vengeances, that we had anything to fly at all !

In fact, I never flew a Spitfire again until I came back in in '49 - seven years later. Luckily, it was like riding a bike - you never forget.

Old 12th Feb 2016, 22:28
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Came across this and thought you guys might be interested -

BBC News - Bismarck memories from war pilot Jock Moffat, 92

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Old 13th Feb 2016, 03:15
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Well Danny, As I've said many times, it's marvellous that we managed to win the war.

Regards, Walter.
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Old 13th Feb 2016, 04:03
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Ah yes - I remember it well...

You may recall that in my #8179 I said:
...(for most of the F.540 is in my own hand - including the six months before I took over - my predecessor, "Red" McInnis, * hadn't bothered !)..
It seems that that is not strictly true. The first narrative pages in the F.540 start on 1.12.44. and end 22.2.45, written "ex post facto" (thanks, ancient aviator 62) by me, and finish in my Summary on 24.4.45 (I'd flown in and taken over on 7.4.45.) and is headed:
...Compiling Officer 156*** F/O J.D.******* Narrative built up from a Flight Diary kept by J.17891 F/Lt V.B. McInnis, RCAF, now returned to Canada...
My Post p.154 #3071 continues the story of the arrears, telling how:
...In my pending tray lay increasingly irate reminders about this Form 540 from 225 Group in Bangalore..... [McInnis had gone back to Canada]..... and we....["Stew" Mobsby and I]... set to work together with the Authorisation Book, made notes of what anybody could remember, and used imagination to fill in the gaps. Henry Ford was right: history is bunk, and in many cases it's not even history. I smoked a pipe then so I cut the cigars up...[which McInnis had left behind] and fed them in. It wasn't really a success...
It seems that "what anybody could remember" didn't amount to much. For it was not until I read Peter C. Smith's "Vengeance !" nearly 70 years later that I found that McInnis had had quite an interesting time in the six months before I arrived. Here is a lengthy extract from that book (published by Airlife Publishing Ltd 1986 [ISBN 0 906393 65 5] - and I hope that this may be sufficient acknowledgment to them):
...A similar but much more military use was made of sprays, fitted to Vengeances by No.1340 Flight, officialy established at Cannanore on 1 December 1944. Vengeance IIIs, ** were fitted with tanks under their wings and experiments were conducted with the use of poison gas. Later, detailed tests were also made by this unit on the application of aerial smoke-screens for use in the combined operations for the invasion of Malaya, Operation Zipper. 'Bud' McInnis from 110 Squadron was in charge of this Flight, and provided me with very interesting details of its work, which almost resulted in a combat use for the Vengeance after all...***
What follows is almost perfect material for inclusion in this Thread. But why didn't McInnis (McInnes ?) put it into his F.540 - rather than tell it to Mr Peter Smith 42 years later ?
..."I went to the Malabar coast of southern India in November 1944. I was posted to a Flight called the Chemical Defence Research Establishment and the idea was that we were going to duplicate a lot of tests with poison gas which had been conducted in England and western Canada

We were going to do them under tropical conditions and they were going to be assessed accordingly. When I got there the place was a madhouse, the airfield was still under construction, half mud, half grass and the aircraft were going to be Vengeances. I was to be the CO of the unit, and so they promoted me to Flight Lieutenant and the first aircraft to come in were Mk.IVs, which differed considerably from those I had been flying up at the front. These were FD 225, FD240 and FD275. The Mk.IVs were more sophisticated in that they had a more powerful engine, but it was still a Wright Cyclone, and more electronics, even the trim tabs were electric. **** It had a higher carrying capacity in that it was supposed to be able to carry four 500lb bombs. # As for the machine guns, we had four instead of six, but they were 0.5s. The aircraft was also heavily protected with armour plating.

When I found out what my job was going to be, I discovered that it was going to involve a lot of low flying. In fact it had to be very accurate, flying for the most part at heights of only 30 ft. ## This is a far from enviable job in the Vengeance because of the high angle of attack, especially at low speeds. So as soon as I was able to fly off the airstrip, I started a programme of low flying to be able to lay a screen that again was measurable from the ground in the size of the molecules ### that dropped. We practised until we became quite proficient. They supplied me with three aircraft and aircrew who had never been on operations, but we succeeded in developing a pretty good unit.

Exercises and tests had commenced on 19 November 1944 ####, and continued through to the end of January 1945. In February the Flight started work out to [at] Santa Cruz, Deolali and Kalyan @ with Vengeance IIIs (FD240, FD955, FD966 and FD955 [sic]. The reason for the switch was explained by 'Red' McInnes thus: "The Army were still miles behind us in the preparations and my people were becoming pretty bored so I volunteered our services for other purposes as there was great preparation taking place at the time in readiness for the planned seaborne invasions of Burma @@ and Malaya. @@ Thus we took part in exercises which required the laying of aerial smokescreens as the landing craft approached the shore.

These exercises broke the monotony for myself and my men and were quite interesting. And we had quite a few amusing incidents because the Army with whom we were working were, for the most part, in the lower stages of training and had no idea what to expect and they were blundering away. I in turn had to learn all the procedures of laying smoke screens, signalling between the attacking forces, which were invariably late, and so on, and so we had a lot of fun doing it.

The last one I did was the most interesting of the lot. It took place just north of Bombay. I had my three aircraft there and this was to be the final rehearsal before they left and landed in Rangoon [?]. My aircraft were again called on for laying smoke. Two aircraft were to lay a screen along the beach, but one aircraft had to lay the perimeters, in other words, each side of an area about 400 yards from the shore had to have a marker dropped to guide in the ships and the landing craft from the sea.

Well, as CO, all this fell on my shoulders and when I went and had a look at the type of marker I was quite apprehensive. It was a float marker of course and it was perfectly spherical, about the size of an ordinary sea mine about 28-30 inches in diameter. @@@ I had to hook one under each wing and drop them in turn, not only accurately but again from not more than 35 ft. Well, there was no means of practising, no means of knowing how the aircraft was going to handle after one was dropped, and naturally they had to be dropped at two different times, one on each side of the landing area.

So I briefed my men on the straight smoke-screen aand armed-up my aircraft with the smoke floats. An amusing aspect of it too was that, just as I was going in to drop the first one, off my starboard side was a small island which was supposed to simulate an island that was just alive with artillery and ack-ack and it was to be bombed by Hurricanes armed with napalm bombs. I had never seen napalm at this point and I was getting nicely lined up to go in and drop my own smoke marker and concentrating hard, when suddenly the complete island erupted in flame. I can remember what a terrible fright it was for me,@@@@ because I didn't know whether it was going to have repercussions on my own aircraft or not. But the napalm, having such a low explosive factor, didn't affect my Vengeance at all. So I got rid of my first marker and was pleasantly surprised to find very little difference in lowering and dropping the second marker. Again, it is a tribute to the solidness of the Vengeance that you could do this sort of thing and get away with it. This exercise was conducted on 27 March 1945. Two days later I returned to my own base where there was a signal saying that I must report to Bombay for repatriation, so I never flew a Vengeance again."[/I]
All this demands a whole series of explanatory or question-type notes - so here goes:


* Was it McInnis (my recollection) or McInnes (Peter C. Smith) ? And I always knew him as "Red" (never "Bud" - he was on "B" Flight of 110, having come out on the "Stirling Castle" with me). May still live, but doubtful.

** They were IVs - the numbers McInnis quotes ("FD" series) confirm it. So what happens to my assertion that the IVs never got to India ? In the bin, that's what !

*** Half a mo' ! Six squadrons of the things had been dive-bombing the Japs in Burma from May '43 to June '44. McInnis himself had flown 66 sorties "without a scratch" (as he says in "Vengeance").

**** OMG ! (and McInnis seems to have forgotten the [most important] AoI change).

EDIT:Why would he notice ? He would never have dived the things at Cannanore or Bombay (any more than I did). On the Squadrons, I did 100-120 practice dives, then 52 operational, but only one "demonstration" after that (and it caused a bit of a gefuffle !) Perhaps the Powers that Be had realised that, for the smoke-laying and marker buoy dropping job at 35 ft, it might be handy for him to see where he was going, so the four-degree AoI on the Mk.IVs would be helpful. But that is a large assumption !

Did they give him Mk.IVs just for that task, then swap him back to IIIs ? Don't know.

# Don't think they ever tried it (the IIIs and IVs were never operational). The IVs had one 0.50 in the back and four (later six) 0.50s in the wings.

## True ! (the lower you are, the harder target you are from ground fire). In his case, they would want the smoke markers and the smoke exactly right.

### Droplets, I think !

#### No record of this period in F.540.

@ All near Bombay.

@@ So there were two ? Could one have been the mysterious one (of which there is now no record) which ended in farce (my Post p.251 #5015). And how were the VVs going to get to target (for there would be no sense in training on the things if they were not to be used in action). With only 200 miles radius of action (they can't fly off a carrier, for steam catapults had not been invented yet), our ground forces would have to be no farther North of the action than that. And, AFAIK, the 14th Army were still much farther away from Port Swettenham on VJ day. That "invasion" was planned with carrier-based air support.

@@@ Peter C. Smith's "Vengeance !" (p.155) has a good pic of McInnis taking off with one smoke float under the port wing.

@@@@ I had a similar moment of terror (my Post p.119 #2373).

Greetings all round, Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 22nd Feb 2016 at 00:27. Reason: Addns.
Old 13th Feb 2016, 08:56
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Came across this and thought you guys might be interested -

BBC News - Bismarck memories from war pilot Jock Moffat, 92

A slightly tenuous link from that story to that of Frank, the resident nav and oldest member of the crew room.

There were two pilots who hit the starboard side of Bismark and recent dives have revealed that it was one of these that did the fatal damage. One was Moffat, the other one was Sb Lt Patterson, the father of Frank's son in law. It may have been a World War but, in some ways it seems to have been a small world!

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Old 16th Feb 2016, 16:24
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Third Reich aircraft types

I may be teaching my grandmother how to suck eggs, but fans of this thread may be interested in the table at the end of this Wikipedia article, which gives an apparently exhaustive list of Reichsluffahrtministerium aircraft type numbers, with HTML links to the relevant Wikipedia articles where they exist:
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Old 19th Feb 2016, 09:51
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2 more books which may be of interest to Danny et alia

1. Fighting through to Kohima: A memoir of war in India and Burma. Michael Lowry. The hardships the Army suffered in this campaign are very well covered in this personal narrative. Danny's Vengeances get an honorable mention in dispatches!

2.Night fighter over Germany - Flying Beaufighters and Mosquitoes in WW2. Graham White. A well written book covering training in the U.S.A. and life as an N.C.O. pilot.

Both add something to the topics raised throughout this wonderful thread.

Before anyone asks I am not on commission
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Old 19th Feb 2016, 11:00
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Danny your excerpts from Peter Smith's Vengeance of Bud McInnis's (?) unofficial and rather tardy "F540" are fascinating. Once again they contradict your own recollections (and kudos to you for highlighting that). So the MkIV was in India? So where had they gone 6 months later when you were on the scene? Repatriated? Hardly likely surely? They were surplus to requirements in the UK, target-towing being the last resort for any type that had no other use.

I see that FD240 is quoted both as a MkIV and a MkIII, presumably a typo. Why didn't he put all this down officially at the time as OC the Flight? I suspect that you would know better than anyone else, but perhaps he shared the contempt for Brit Bureaucracy that other 'Colonials' had?

The invasion exercise on the west coast of India (north of Bombay), presumably to better simulate the west coasts of Burma and Malaya, remind us that in 44/45 no-one knew how long the war against Japan would go on for, and that those two invasions would most probably have been mere preludes to the big one, the invasion(s) of Japan itself. The cost in lives would have been counted in the millions if it wasn't for the dropping of Fat Boy and Little Man. Terrible as they were, they brought the war to an end, and thus saved far more lives than they took...

Walter, the frustration that you must have felt after such a prolonged journey and illness to get to Egypt, only to be held in a transit camp while the crucial Battle of El Alamein raged so close to the west, is palpable. Such is war of course, long hours of boredom interspersed with moments of stark terror. No doubt they are yet to come! ;-)
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Old 20th Feb 2016, 00:34
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For which the Lord be thankit !


Your Post set me furiously checking my log and the "Vengeance !" entry by "Red" McInnis/McInnes (?). He says he had FD225, FD240 and FD275. All these would be Mk.IVs.

Those I took over on 9 Apl '45 were all FBs (Mk.III):

..........................First Appearance......Last Appearance (in my Logbook)

FB966......................11 Apl '45...............15 Nov '45
FB975......................19 Apl '45........ ........5 Oct '45 *
FB977......................28 Jan '46................4 Mar '46 #
FB986......................16 Nov '45...............12 Mar '46 #.....(my favourite)


FD100......................30 Oct '45.................9 Mar '46 #

and nearly had a cardiac arrest ! (FD100 - a Mk.IV !!! ?) until I checked with "Vengeance !" and much to my relief found:

(FD100-FD117 and all FBs are Mk.IIIs, all other FDs are Mk.IV - Peter C. Smith: "Vengeance !")

Note * - would be the one written-off (head-butted by a Barracuda at Sulur). FB986 must have been the replacement for it. What happened to FB966 ? No idea.

Note # - these would be the last three flown to Nagpur for scrap on 12 Mar '46.

So when did "Red" have his IVs replaced by the IIIs ? No idea.
...I see that FD240 is quoted both as a MkIV and a MkIII, presumably a typo. Why didn't he put all this down officially at the time as OC the Flight? I suspect that you would know better than anyone else, but perhaps he shared the contempt for Brit Bureaucracy that other 'Colonials' had?...
Too right ! He hadn't written a word of F540 for any of his six month's Command. Group were foaming at the mouth (as I found only after he'd gone). He dropped me 'in it' and no mistake. Perhaps the box of (not very good) cigars he also left were by way of mollification. Never were F.540s written up so fast - or with such little regard to truth or the use of such vivid imagination !

...those two invasions would most probably have been mere preludes to the big one, the invasion(s) of Japan itself. The cost in lives would have been counted in the millions if it wasn't for the dropping of Fat Boy and Little Man. Terrible as they were, they brought the war to an end, and thus saved far more lives than they took...
One look at the distances involved shows what a terrible undertaking a seaborne invasion of Japan would have been. It would have had to have been mounted from Okinawa (400 miles to the South), and land based bombers from Shanghai (say) would be 500 miles from landfall in Japan and 1,000 miles from Tokyo. What did we have ? Lincoln - Range: 2,930 mi (4,714 km) with maximum bomb-load 1,470 miles [Wiki] and B-29 - Range - 5,000 mi [Google], plus carrier-based aircraft.

When we did get ashore, the Japanese Home armies would certainly have fought to the last man and the last round. Mercifully (even allowing for the Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims), it was not to be.


Last edited by Danny42C; 20th Feb 2016 at 00:38. Reason: Typo.
Old 20th Feb 2016, 11:37
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When we did get ashore, the Japanese Home armies would certainly have fought to the last man and the last round.
plus all the women and children.
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Old 21st Feb 2016, 08:09
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Following your recommendation on #4 on "8 Sqn Query !" Thread, I bought the book - wonderful story and good value at (1.87 + 2.80 postage !) Condition advertised as "Used - Good", but in fact mint with dust jacket - but I think I got the very last one at that price. Thanks for the steer !

Chugalug will be amused by this excerpt from p.44, as it bears out what he has told us about the pre-CRM days on the flight deck. Our hero has been posted to Dishforth on Hastings........
"...My crew status was second pilot, a misnomer if ever there was one. The second pilot had to lower and raise the undercarriage and flaps when told by the Captain, and, when instructed, turn the pitot heater on and off: absolutely nothing else - no landings, no take-offs, no taxying - the aircraft was in effect being operated by a single pilot and the passengers were one heartbeat from death. Had the Captain died, and most of them looked so old that they looked pretty close to it, I doubt if I could have landed and retained control of the aircraft. The aircraft was very big with four huge Bristol Centaurus sleeve valve engines and it was a tail dragger; if the worst happened, I hoped my four hours on Chipmunks with Flight Lieutenant Peile at the Cambridge University Air Squadron would prove a help...
Later on one of his Squadron COs was a Sqn.Ldr. "Sid" Walker - I'm sure he was a Flt.Lt. with me on 20 Sqdn in '51, and later made Wg.Cdr. IIRC.

Old 21st Feb 2016, 09:25
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Just a quick question, are the veterans here signed up for project propellor this year?
If not, I'd recommend it. There are about 200 veterans being flown in this year the last I heard. I have my veteran rostered for me to fly in, and I believe it will once again be quite some reunion.
A small way in which some of today's pilots can say thanks.
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Old 21st Feb 2016, 09:29
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He must have been one of the students on the initial trials with the Jet Provost Mk1 for the new all through jet training. He wasn't the only one to go on to transport pistons. One of my wings course went from JP3s/Vampires to Beverleys for no other reason that he was good enough at rugby to play for the RAF and Abingdon was where both were based.
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Old 21st Feb 2016, 09:46
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Being, like yourself, a member of English Language Pedants (ELP!), I couldn't help chuckling at the couple of lines
at the bottom of the cover of Haig-Thomas' story.

These tell me that the book was "Forwarded by" the ACM.
So, it seems then, he (possibly) had a bit of a read and passed it on.

Anyway, back to our normal programming..

Last edited by Stanwell; 21st Feb 2016 at 11:28.
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Old 21st Feb 2016, 11:16
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Danny, timing as to one's service in the RAF is everything, just as it is in life. I was fortunate to be on the first entry to be trained on the JP3/4 and to be posted to Hastings when co-pilots had been elevated from 2nd to 1st pilot status. Unlike Haig-Thomas we were confident in our ability to rise to the occasion if the inhabitant of the LHS, old or otherwise, should become incapacitated. That confidence was built up after the OCU in Squadron monthly continuation training.

No-one had invented CRM back then, but Capt Jack's "F***ing Sow's Ear, Lad!", when one had called "Cut" and stalled her into a perfect three pointer onto the piano-keys for a Tactical Landing, was endorsement enough of one's professional status!
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Old 21st Feb 2016, 20:04
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Project Propeller.

kghjfg (your #8195),

This is a noble enterprise, and one more proof (if proof be needed) that the Right Stuff is as Right as ever it was - even if it's a bit different ! I thank you and all your other young(er) flight-donors, on behalf of my entire generation. I myself am far too fragile and decrepit to get much further than my own front door, but "Project Propeller" should be regularly brought to notice on this Thread for the benefit of our less ancient and more supple members.

If you have 200 chaps "on the books", then one way in which they can reciprocate is to get on here and tell us their stories. I take it that few will now be WWII-ers - that is too much to hope for - but "all's grist that comes to this mill !"

One word of caution - check out your "veterans" well ! (the genuine ones will not object, but sadly, there may be others, as we know here).

Cheers, Danny.
Old 21st Feb 2016, 23:06
  #8199 (permalink)  
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Fall Out the Roman Catholics and Jews !

Stanwell (your #8197),

This is our normal programming - and the beauty of this Thread !

"Foreword by", of course. "Forwarded" ? Conjures up a vision....."In" Tray ...quick initial on File...."Out" Tray... To whom would an ACM "forward" it ? ...God ?

I like the: "Fg.Off. (retd) R.A.F." (after seven years' service ! - "this distinguished R.A.F. Officer's career" ?)

EDIT:With 66 years' seniority as a Flight Lieutenant (retd) R.A.F. , I'm in no position to cast stones !

(All tongue-in-cheek, of course - my grateful thanks to Anthony Haig-Thomas for hours of pleasure from this beautifully written book - I only wish it might have been set up in a larger type for old eyes).

Floriat Etona.


Last edited by Danny42C; 21st Feb 2016 at 23:19. Reason: Addns.
Old 21st Feb 2016, 23:56
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Silk Purses ?

Chugalug (your #8198),
... when one had called "Cut" and stalled her into a perfect three pointer onto the piano-keys for a Tactical Landing, was endorsement enough of one's professional status!...
In '51, we had a chap on 20 Sqn (name forgotten), ex-QFI on Harvards, whose party trick it was to touch-down in the Station Harvard on the first few inches from the threshold of Valley's 32 and stop abeam the caravan ! (Have put a Vampire down on the old 26 there once myself - but in the teeth of a howling gale).

As you say, the secret of success in the RAF (and in many other professions) is to be born at exactly the right time. Few of us can manage it, unfortunately.

(It's all our parents' fault !).....

Cheers, Danny.

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