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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 10th Jul 2016, 17:11
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Danny42C
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John (#8859),

Looks like he was in the right place at the right time, then. Anything further you can dig up about the Vengeance connection would be welcome.

Danny.
 
Old 10th Jul 2016, 17:29
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ian16th (#8860),
...But it is now named PAF Base Masroor, dunno when that happened...
Or why ? Can understand why all the British names were Indianised after 1947, but what is wrong with "Mauripur" ? (Perhaps that was too "Hindi" so had to go into "Urdu" ?)

Just a wild guess.

Danny.
 
Old 10th Jul 2016, 18:38
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Hello Sycamore,
I did know that the Vengence had a Wright, and I'm sure my father also
knew that. Still I now recall him, when I mentioned harmonic balancer
problems, telling me about the Pratt & Whitney system. Two bronze (?) balls
in a circular arced container presumeably opposite the master con rod.
They could move about so as to conteract the unbalance inherent in the
Master/slave conrod setup. No idea how that works in a 2/3 row engine.
Maybe he did the Wright course as well.
I think like Danny he went where he was sent & fought the war they gave him.
Regards, John
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Old 10th Jul 2016, 18:45
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Danny, I'll keep thinking and trying to remember, possibly good for the brain.
He did tell me about getting a shave in bed, cut-throat raser, and tea brought
in the morning by the very people demanding independence. I know he was
still in India/Pakistan the day partition took place, and found it very frightening.
John.
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Old 11th Jul 2016, 10:51
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If auld acquaintance be forgot...

John (#8865),
...trying to remember, possibly good for the brain...
Yes - but it gets harder as the years roll by !
... getting a shave in bed, cut-throat razor...
One chap in Chakrata was supposed to be able to do this without waking you up !
...tea brought in the morning by the very people demanding independence..
.
No, they weren't ! The only difference Independence would make to him was that his new (Indian) Sahib would pay him a half (if he was very lucky) of what he was getting from us !
...and found it very frightening...
Yes, I was glad to get away home 18 months before, because we could see what was going to happen. As I've said somewhere: "When the hated colonial master went away, Pax Britannica went with him !" Death roll: two million (figure accepted at the time), or a million (revisionist historians who weren't there 70 years ago). Know which figure I prefer.

Danny.
 
Old 12th Jul 2016, 08:11
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Old Comrades



I remember that awful, first train journey from Greece to Germany. I remember many other train journeys taken in Germany, and especially the first one, that took us from Frankfurt to Muhlberg. 60 of us were crammed into a wooden, windowless railway truck, labelled in French "40 hommes, 8 cheveux" (40 men or 8 horses). I don't remember how long the journey took. I think it may have three days. We were exceedingly uncomfortable, underfed and underwater. Of course, we were the lowest priority in railway traffic - everything else came first.

When we arrived at the Muhlberg rail head, (about 120, I think, or two carriage loads) we were offloaded and marched a long way to the prison camp, escorted by yelling guards making passes at us with their bayonets if we strayed out of line or dawdled. It was then snowing, and very, very cold. I think it was about 16th December 1943.

We arrived at the camp just as dusk was falling, and were put into a long barracks hut, all timber, with 3-tier wooden bunks, rows and rows of them, along the right-hand side. There were 240 beds altogether, and we filled the lot. We were all Air Force air crew, gathered up from different battle zones, but mainly those shot down over Germany during bombing raids from England.

I don't remember if there were prisoners already occupying the hut, or if it filled up later, but the place was certainly full by Christmas. I had a top bunk, very deficient in bed boards, and not far under the ceiling, which was of a compressed material rather like a mixture of cardboard and wood chips. The huts were built as double-ended accommodation with a central washing area, all concrete, with several cold water taps for personal use, and for washing clothes. The latter was a most difficult task, using "ersatz" (artificial) soap occasionally doled out grudgingly by our captors. This soap was heavy, making the water a bluish colour, and produced very little lather.

The other end of our building, also accommodating about 240, was occupied by soldiers, mainly from the British Isles, but there were also some Cypriots and Greeks among them.



From time to time, new inmates arrived on the camp, after their days of interrogation at Dulag Luft, Frankfurt. Having been recently shot down while taking part in the air raids over Germany, we eagerly sought news from them; how the war was going, what conditions were like in England, which Squadrons they were members of, etc.

Becoming acclimatised to our new way of life was very depressing. There was little to eat, of course. The Germans were not about to waste good food on useless prisoners. We received basic rations of soup (we called it "skilly") made from turnips, mangels, potatoes, etc., none of them too clean, and not too plentiful. Boiled potatoes were dished up two or three time a week, but they also were not plentiful, and they had to be shared among groups of men called "syndicates". For convenience, we would band together on these occasions with, for example, five men in each syndicate. A measure of potatoes would be doled out to us - always an odd number , by some peculiar quirk. Think of nine - for instance - different sized spuds, to be divided up between five hungry men! Eagle eyes watched the share-out, as they were cut up and distributed.

The same system operated with the horrible German rye bread. A couple of times weekly, we would receive a portion cut from one of these heavy, indigestible loaves, and an instruction as to how many men it was to feed. Then the portion had to be cut very, very carefully so as to provide each man with a similar part. Even the crumbs were carefully doled out! Very rarely, we received portions of cooked meat, which we thought was horseflesh, but it was always in the smallest quantities. Also available every morning was a huge tub of rusty coloured warm water. This came in at about 10am, and those who had to shave (I was not one, fortunately) would collect a mugful, to take to the wash-house for their daily scrape, usually with an extremely blunt razor. I think I had been in the prison camp about two months, when the discovery was made that the rusty "hot water" was actually a ration of morning coffee! Made with roasted and ground acorns, it was never any good, even when made in strength. The men continued to use it as shaving water - it was a little better than the stone-cold variety that came from the taps.

Every morning at 6am we had "appel", the roll-call to ensure that no prisoners had escaped. This duty was carried out inefficiently and with some sadism by the guards. We were forced to stand near our huts for very long periods in the most bitter weather, while the stupid soldiery counted slowly and very inaccurately, up and down the lines. Finally, satisfied that all was correct, we were allowed back into our huts, where we tried to get warm with an early brew of tea or coffee.

These drinks were made from the supplies in our Red Cross parcels and, without the food contained in them, we would undoubtedly have starved. The precious parcels were issued in the good times at the rate of one per prisoner, each week. In bad times, they were shared, sometimes between two, and often between four or more. The mixed tins of stew, meat, margarine or butter, and the packets of biscuits, dried fruit, and sometimes of chocolate, made up a parcel weighing about 2 pounds (a little under 1kg) and were eaten very carefully to make them last through the week.

There were two stoves in each hut - that is, at each end and some distance in from the doorways, there was an enclosed brick fire, with flat iron plates on top, that served as our cooking range. Both fires led to a central chimney, so that there was a degree of warmth to be gained from the flues. On the plates, 240 of us had to boil our water for drinks, and do what little cooking we were able to manage with the limited food in our parcels. We had self-appointed fire sentries, who would stand all day at the stoves, call out numbers from the tags placed on the tea-billies to identify the owners, and move them to one side to make way for the next billy or dixy in line.

Among other shortages, we hadn't much in the way of fuel. We had to use artificially made coal blocks very carefully, as they were doled out to us from the central store. A "coal fatigue" from our hut went for its rations one day, with me as one of the party. With the German sentries standing guard as the coal was taken from the shed, we managed to create a series of diversions, meanwhile kicking along extra coal blocks furtively from man to man, until finally the stolen extra blocks were hastily thrown into a sack and spirited away to our hut. By this time, our unsuspecting sentries were in a furious state at our distracting diversions, and very close to bayonetting any prisoner close enough to reach.

Life under these conditions was very tedious, of course. Various ways were employed to lighten our lot, by our own comrades. There was a system of voluntary classes formed by teachers of one kind or another. I enrolled in a Forestry class, and in Bridge. I think I took one or two lessons in the former, but none in Bridge, before I was off from the camp in my bid to escape. With hindsight, I equate those classes to our current system of U3A (University of the Third Age) that provides education, information and diversion for our retirees.

Last edited by Walter603; 12th Jul 2016 at 10:12. Reason: correct spelling
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 09:18
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An excellent post and much appreciated.
Thank you, Walter.
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Old 12th Jul 2016, 11:40
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Walter,

Another absorbing chapter in your via dolorsa as a POW in Germany; those of who escaped that fate think: "there but for the grace of God....". And at that, they were better off than the Japanese captives. (Pilots were sometimes beheaded with the sword, the Japs seem to have had a particular dislike to us - but in any case the victims might find this preferable to being starved and worked to death).

Congratulations on keeping your Identity card all this time. How meticulous they were !

Strange to see your height given as "5.9", but the weight in Kg. But then, I recall going into a hardware shop once with careful measurements in mm for a tap adaptor. Chap in brown dust coat looked at this scornfully. "Drei vertel zoll " ("3/4 in"), he said, and reached down the bit I wanted fom the shelf. Seems imperial measures alive and well there in 1960, perhaps the same held good in your case.

And they recorded the shape of your skull and nose. You were pale faced (no wonder). And was the wound on your right leg from your ditching ?
...those who had to shave (I was not one, fortunately)...
That stopped me in my tracks ! A battle-hardened Beaufighter pilot - and he doesn't have to shave yet ! People today just wouldn't believe it. (of course, it only meant you'd decided to grow a beard).

Might not need to shave, but could do with haircut ! (mugshot). Fredghh (RIP) said that they "sheared him to the bone" and then billed him for it !
...I had a top bunk, very deficient in bed boards..
.
Might've been for fuel, more probably the shoring-up of a tunnel (seen too many POW films !)
...and for washing clothes. The latter was a most difficult task, using "ersatz" (artificial) soap...
Probably the same as the sea-water soap they gave me on the troopship. Useless.
...artificially made coal blocks...
We had the same sort of things at home (slack and coal dust compressed in to small blocks - "Coalite" ?
...before I was off from the camp in my bid to escape...
Now don't wait too long before telling us all about it". Fred told us that he'd "been on the run from the Gestapo for six weeks" - then, sadly, left us before he could tell the story.

Keep the ball rolling, Walter !

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 12th Jul 2016 at 11:45. Reason: Typo,
 
Old 13th Jul 2016, 04:39
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Danny.
I didn't shave until I was back in Blighty and getting on to be 23! No, I didn't grow a beard. As you noticed I kept most of my hair on top of my head. Still got lots of it, now white!

Yes, the minor wound on my leg was caused during the ditching.
I'm surprised you examined the PoW record so thoroughly. It came into my hands quite a long time after the war. A "brave" Jewish air-gunner (title bestowed by Germans because of his religion daring to fly over their country) raided the Stalag orderly room after his release and took several sets of records including mine. Then he tracked me down from the adjoining London suburb where he lived and gave me the souvenir. His name was Mark Cohen.

Walter.

Last edited by Walter603; 13th Jul 2016 at 04:42. Reason: spelling
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 10:03
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Walter, like Danny you have the enviable ability to recall seemingly mundane detail about your experiences of over 70 years ago. Of course, the detail is anything but mundane as it puts us at your side on that interminable journey, and in the POW camp. Coffee that was no such thing, but at least hot enough to shave with! Crumbs that had to be shared out equally, similarly with Red Cross parcels (that at least were delivered even in the bad times!).

The comradeship of shared privation is best exemplified by your tale of Mark Cohen's raid on the camp orderly room and then tracking you down after the war (and presumably as many others as he was able to) to unite you with your "Dulag Luft Kreigsgefangenenkartel". As Danny comments, the living might have been hard, but it was at least scrupulously and meticulously recorded!

That Mark Cohen was Jewish reminds us of another member of that faith, Reg Lewin, who described his war to us and of the sub-war that they fought, even in defiance of their own side, to ensure the future of their new homeland for the survivors of the Holocaust.

Last edited by Chugalug2; 13th Jul 2016 at 10:13.
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 11:22
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Walter

I found your description of the POW camp very poignant, as my late father was incarcerated from late '42 to the end of the war. He was a private in the East Surrey regiment.

He never spoke of his time as a prisoner, all I can remember being told was that he took part in the landings in Algeria in November '42 ( Operation Torch? ), was captured by the Germans in Tunisia and flown in a JU52 to a POW camp in Italy. I guess he was lucky not to have been shot down by the RAF or RN based in Malta!

After the Italians capitulated, they all did a runner but were soon recaptured by the Germans and he ended up having to work in a coal mine near Zwickau.

I only discovered after his early death in 1970, aged 51, that he had picked up a kidney infection in the Italian camp and was subsequently discharged from the army in early '46 as medically unfit. He collected his demob' suit and tried to get on with the rest of his life. I guess he may have been entitled to some sort of pension, but he never claimed one. He had hated every minute of the 6 plus years he had spent as a soldier and just wanted to put it all behind him.
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Old 13th Jul 2016, 11:39
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Chugalug,

Reg Lewen ? (couldn't have confused him with Reg Levy, Sir ?) He (RIP) told us here of the amazing story of his war, an interlude postwar running round in a van flogging cut priced toilet rolls to seedy hotels in Bayswater - and then a wonderful career, culminating as a Captain with Sabena, including the gripping account of his hi-jacking at Tel Aviv and the outwitting of the hi-jackers which made him world-famous.

Incorporated it into a book ("Night Flak to Hi-Jack"). Have the Kindle, can recommend.

Walter,
...As you noticed I kept most of my hair on top of my head. Still got lots of it, now white!
...
Couldn't spare any of it for me, by any chance ?

All honour to Mark Cohen for quick thinking as a POW, and then the assiduity with which he tracked down his former comrades in adversity.
...A "brave" Jewish air-gunner..
As was my Auxiliary C.O. at Thornaby, Wing Commander David Brown DSO (61 ops).
We stand humbly before such men.

Danny.
 
Old 13th Jul 2016, 12:59
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Danny:-
Reg Lewen ? (couldn't have confused him with Reg Levy, Sir ?)
Indeed I could, Danny. Mea Culpa, I remembered his PPRuNe ID, Regle, but misremembered that it stood for Reg Levy and not Lewin as I posted. I recently bought a shirt made by a firm with the latter name, so perhaps I got confused with that. Typically, you had no such senior moment!

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Old 13th Jul 2016, 16:18
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Chugalug,

On the contrary, dear sir - my life is now one long Senior Moment "

Danny.
 
Old 13th Jul 2016, 23:32
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Walter,

thankyou for another riveting instalment. I was saying to someone recently that it's strange to be able to converse with somebody who was actually there.

My generation have read the books, and we've watched the films, somehow it's more real in this format. Sometimes it's hard to comprehend that the experiences on this thread aren't 3rd hand or 2nd hand, you were actually there.

Sometimes you've done things we can only dream about, and sometimes you've done things that we only dream about in nightmares. Once again I take my hat off to all who post on this thread.
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Old 14th Jul 2016, 08:25
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Danny42
But then, I recall going into a hardware shop once with careful measurements in mm for a tap adaptor. Chap in brown dust coat looked at this scornfully. "Drei vertel zoll " ("3/4 in"), he said, and reached down the bit I wanted fom the shelf. Seems imperial measures alive and well there in 1960,
Still alive and well in the 21st century.

British_Standard_Pipe
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Old 14th Jul 2016, 08:56
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ian16th,

Wiki says they (pipe sizes) are "international". But surely not. How about China, (say) ?

Danny.
 
Old 14th Jul 2016, 09:58
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Danny,

I am not that well travelled, but I am very aware that here in this southern colony that 'went metric' in a very vindictive anti-British way, still uses BSP plumbing bits.

I also have a pet hate for thing that are 'metrified', they are things that are manufactures/built to imperial sizes/standards but are expressed in metric units.

Fitted carpeting that is made on Imperial machines, comes in 6', 9' and 12' widths and is priced by the square metre is a prime example.

A double bed is 4'6" wide and a King Size is 6'! But they are expressed in metric units.

My local h/w shop sells timber that is cut to 183cm lengths! The daft staff don't realise that they mean 6'.

I'll calm down now and have a cup of Ceylon tea. I like the fact they don't call it Sri Lankan tea.
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Old 14th Jul 2016, 10:39
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ian16th,

Assam much more fragrant !

Danny.
 
Old 14th Jul 2016, 15:12
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Wiki says they (pipe sizes) are "international". But surely not. How about China, (say) ?
Imperial used in China like everywhere else.

Imperial is used for thread sizes all over the world because Great Britain invented modern plumbing. Once upon a time pipe was either threaded or joined with lead solder wiped with moleskin. The advent of pre-soldered joints, a British invention by the Yorkshire Copper works in 1934 led to copper tubes in Imperial sizes replacing iron and lead pipes.
When the UK succumbed to metrification, our USA cousins didn't, the pipe sizes changed from 3/8 to 15mm. and 1/2 to 22mm. etc. However, the Europeans couldn't fiddle the thread sizes as it would cause chaos so they have been left alone.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 14th Jul 2016 at 18:14.
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