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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 21st Jul 2016, 21:02
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they only went onto electric light in WWII,
Coor. We only had electric when we moved into a quarter at Aldergrove in 1949. I was nine and used to get my ears boxed for switching the lights on and off. The only electric socket in the kitchen had to have the plug in all the time in case the electricity leaked out.
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 00:01
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Yes chaps, those posts brought back some memories.

For example, being sent down to the local Greengrocer's to get some pine-wood fruit packing cases to fuel the chip-heater to run a bath

It's funny how some old foibles still hang with my generation, though.
An old school-friend of mine, now interstate, who I visit from time to time (and now a multi-millionaire), has a thing about wasting electricity.
He would INSIST that a 15W globe illuminating the main stairway late at night be extinguished because it was 'wasting electricity'.
At the same time, he has a three-phase, 3000W pool heating and filtering system running out the back.

He's one of those people that feels the need to have a hot shower twice a day - but keeps them short because he doesn't want to waste water and electricity.

Hello?

He got his come-uppance one night a while back, though.
The poor chap came a cropper down that darkened stairway which laid him up for the better part of twelve months - during which time he had the opportunity to reflect on the wisdom of unthinking 1940s-style parsimony.
.

Last edited by Stanwell; 22nd Jul 2016 at 00:32.
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 09:25
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Old Comrades

We three couldn't help chuckling to ourselves as we stole away into the darkness. We had plans to proceed southwards as fast as possible, maybe hitching a ride on a train if such were available. We hoped to reach Czecho-Slovakia, where we knew there would be partisans, as that was the shortest route to any country where we thought help would be available.

In retrospect, we were badly prepared. We had made-up civilian clothing of a fashion, no decent maps, and only a strong sense of direction to assist us. We quickly found that we had made a very bad omission. Our filled water-bottles, lying on the bunks next to us, had been left behind! We had nothing to drink, and after a few hours of marching in the pitch dark, we were very thirsty. An added problem for me was that I found myself limping very badly. My right foot hurt, and the pain was between my toes where I had stored the escape compass. As soon as possible I pulled off my boot and sock. There was the little metal housing of the compass, and there was the little compass needle sticking into my skin. There also was a nice collection of glass fragments from the compass casing, clinging to the sides of my toes! What a relief to get rid of them. We found that the compass worked fine without its top, but we had to be careful not to lose the needle.

We holed up shortly before dawn in a thicket well away from the roads, and spent a little time eating a meagre breakfast from our escape rations. Then we slept, passably well. When we awoke it had been raining. We were fortunate that our hidey-hole was quite well-protected and we were not very wet.

As night fell we moved off again, and were very relieved on finding the nearest road that it was tarmac and that puddles had formed on the uneven surface. We were able to slake our thirst by lying prone and sucking up water from the road. Very sweet it tasted, too!

We continued to make our way south, and found some old bottles in which we could store water, that we took from the side of a country house with an outside tap. However, we set the inmate's dog barking fiercely, and we hurriedly retreated before an alarm was raised. Soon we were crossing open country with water courses running through it. They were man-made, and appeared to be irrigation ditches which were quite wide. It was a dark night, and what we could see of the landscape was forbidding. The pockets of pine trees loomed through the darkness, and we were unable to find a bridge or any likely crossing point over the channel, which was about 7 or 8 feet wide.

We knew we would have to jump or wade across the channel, and we weren't sure how deep was the water. George examined the bank carefully on our side, and measured the distance by eye as well as he could in the darkness. He walked back some distance, while Fred and I watched keenly. Then George took a fast run at the bank and launched himself.

For a moment I thought he would make the opposite side, but one foot touched the water, and in a moment he was lying in three or four feet of water. Fred and I were most unkind, and collapsed with laughter. George waded, spluttering and swearing, to the far side. I decided discretion was in order, and having seen the depth of the water I waded in up to my middle, followed by Fred. We were now wet, but poor George was the wettest, having gone in full length.

It was now necessary to dry out somewhere, although brisk walking got rid of some of the excess moisture! We broke into a barn the following morning, just as the eastern sky was lightening, and buried ourselves in the plentiful hay we found, after having another frugal breakfast. Wet or not, I slept like a top.
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 10:08
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Walter, well you've done it now! Other than leaving the water bottles behind (which was a bit careless!) you've made the break and are well on your way. Your only escape aid is the tiny compass, now minus its glass face, but you have done the right thing, move by night and lay up by day.

All this rather suggests a certain amount of training. Aircrew now (well, certainly in my day) do a certain amount of escape and evasion while in training. I too have been wet through while trying to evade capture by those pursuing us, in the Cairngorms in my case. The need to get dry again ASAP is paramount.

So what instruction had you? Do you think that was unique to Air Force personnel? You imply that the Army at least was in the main content to see the war out behind barbed wire. The great escape stories seem mainly to involve the air forces, though Colditz of course was a mixed bag. Was it just a question of numbers, or is there a cultural difference here?

Anyone with thoughts on the above? The aviators of course were operating over enemy territory, which meant they were on the run immediately they came down to it, as against those who were captured at sea or on the field of battle. Thanks to very brave people in occupied countries, some of those aviators were never captured and succeeded in getting back home to carry on the fight. Their escapes though tended to be "managed" by those who organised the various escape routes. The escapes that I query are following capture and mainly self managed. Why were the vast majority Air Force, or were they?
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 12:48
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Brought up in the leafy suburbs of Eastcote (Middlesex) I was astonished when frequenting a b&b in Lincoln(not far from a well known teacher training college) in the 60s to find the only loo was a privy at the bottom of the garden
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 13:33
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Chugalug (#8925)
... The escapes that I query are following capture and mainly self managed. Why were the vast majority Air Force, or were they ?...
I believe they were. I think that aircrew (having survived a rigorous selection process) were more "adventurous" (not to blow my own trumpet, you understand) and readier to "think on their feet" for themselves.

Whereas your average "squaddie" had drilled into him that his basic duty was to obey orders. So now he simply carried on doing so - but from enemy officers and NCOs. It was for this reason that the Germans were careful to separate our officers from their troops - usually in different camps. That allowed them to concentrate their anti-escape measures on the officers, who were far more likely to give them trouble in that way.

All that is "off the top of my head", backed up by no experience, and open to be shot down ! I well remember incurring "Fredghh's" (RIP) censure by saying that "life in a Transit Camp must have been like being a POW - except that you could escape !" (he swiftly put me right).

Danny.
 
Old 22nd Jul 2016, 13:39
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Do you think that was unique to Air Force personnel? You imply that the Army at least was in the main content to see the war out behind barbed wire. The great escape stories seem mainly to involve the air forces,
I have memories of reading that to a soldier, the threat of being taken prisoner was a constant threat and if it happened it was mentally accepted.

With aircrew, in particular the Bomber Command crews, after every successful sortie they were 'at home', in their Mess and possibly down the local pub, even with the wife or girlfriend.

The enormous and sudden change from 'home life' to being a prisoner was so great that their brains didn't accept POW life as easily as the Army guys did.

In the case of RN POW's, they had often been 'rescued' by the ships crews that had sunk them, so they unconsciously felt grateful to the enemy.
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 15:59
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ian16th (#8927)
...In the case of RN POW's, they had often been 'rescued' by the ships crews that had sunk them, so they unconsciously felt grateful to the enemy....
The "Stockholm Syndrome ?"

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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 20:52
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Danny

It was just a memory from something I read, a long time ago. It seemed relevant to the question of why aircrew made more escape attempts than others.

I can't even make a guess at what the source was.
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 20:53
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'Em as hides can find !

Walter (#8927),
...where I had stored the escape compass...
ISTR that another idea was to have a trouser (braces) button, metal exactly like all the rest on your uniform slacks, but magnetised and with a tiny luminous spot (on the back ?) to show N.

Perhaps the Germans had rumbled this trick by the time you fell into their hands, and so the RAF had a compass issue. Can think of other places to hide it - but we won't go into that !

Can't remember what I had to go on ops with.

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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 21:28
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to a soldier, the threat of being taken prisoner was a constant threat and if it happened it was mentally accepted
You have to remember a soldier sees death at close hand. He may well look into the eyes of somebody and then kills him. He sees his friends or relatives torn apart by grenades or bombs.

Does he really want to escape and return to that?
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Old 22nd Jul 2016, 21:48
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After my mother received the initial printed card from Germany, on which new PoWs simply filled in their name, rank and service number, we started to get letters and letter cards from my father. All were, of course, censored both by the Germans and by the British before they arrived on our doormat. My father wrote all his letters from prison camp in pencil in a very neat upper-case script about 1.5mm high, and occasionally words or lines had been very thoroughly blocked out by a censor. A few months after he was captured we received a small bundle of his letters, accompanied by a note from the British censor saying that it was believed that my father was sending coded information, and asking if my mother could help. My godmother was staying with us at the time and the two of them puzzled over the letters for some time. She noticed that several of his letters mentioned that he was trying to change his writing and asked if we had noticed any change; eventually they found that if they sighted along each line of script an occasional letter was fractionally higher than the others and these larger letters formed the messages. I’m not aware that RAF officers at this period of the War had had any advice on simple codes to use in the event of capture, but I suspect that this was a personal initiative.
My father was in Oflag Xc, near Lübeck, then Oflag VIB at Warburg and Oflag XXIB at Schubin. From October 1942 until almost the end of the War he was in Stalag Luft III at Sagan, between Berlin and Wrocław, or Breslau as it then was known, before the post-War moving of the frontier put it out of Germany and into Poland. After a while some of his letters, all of which I still have, had references to the activities of “Mr. Delvet and his friends”; one told us that “50 of D.D’s students had failed their exams”. My parents were very keen on the countryside and wildlife and I was brought up on Beatrix Potter books among many others. My mother soon realised that these references were to a character in one of the Potter books, Diggory Delvet, who was a mole, and that my father was telling us of tunneling attempts, most of which were unsuccessful. In early 1943 he told us that “..some of Rainey’s old friends” had arrived, though segregated from the RAF compound and that a voluntary collection had been organised for them. “Rainey” was a friend of my parents who had communist leanings, and this told us that Soviet prisoners had arrived. He also wrote that it was true that they had snow on their boots; after the War we learned that those first Soviet prisoners had no shelter that winter and that the RAF prisoners had thrown food and clothing into their compound to try to keep them alive.
For a while after the unsuccessful Dieppe landing British PoWs were handcuffed, apparently in retaliation for the use of handcuffs on German prisoners by the Canadian troops bringing them back to the UK. They soon discovered that a simple modification to a sardine can key snapped them open.
One of his letters told us that he was doing five days solitary confinement in “the cooler” for being late on one of the morning parades at Oflag XX1B; so many had been late that it was not till he was in Stalag Luft 3 that he served his sentence, for there had been a long queue of ‘offenders’. He wrote that his mistake was to give his right name (“but don’t tell Buster11”); most of the others gave names like Crippen and M. Mouse and were never found when there became space for them to start their sentence.
My father organised art classes for prisoners and made a ‘samizdat’-type manual for students; he did posters for the many plays put on in the camp theatre, some of which the German staff attended, little suspecting the activities that took place under the stage. One of his letters mentioned that he’d been making papier maché masks for one of the plays and “for some of D.D’s activities”. Dummies were sometimes taken on the morning parades to hide the fact that there were fewer prisoners in camp than were counted the previous evening. Forging passes and documents and making fake German rubber stamps from shoe soles or sometimes as potato prints was another of his activities. He developed a technique of glazing the faked photos on passes by using repeated layers of saliva.
Throughout his time in prison camp he sketched and painted and he brought home numerous sketchbooks covering all sorts of camp activities. One wonders how he managed to take them with him on the winter forced march in early 1945, but they survived that; he also did a number of watercolour portraits of fellow PoWs, around A4 size and mounted, though this must have been done post-War. He made the mistake of lending some crayon and watercolour sketches of the camp to the makers of the film The Wooden Horse, based on the famous escape from Stalag Luft 3; none were ever returned. I leant some others to the authors of a book on another escape, Flak and Ferrets, to help their research, and unfortunately the thatched cottage where one of them lived burnt down before the book was finished and most of the remainder of the sketchbooks were lost. Luckily I had previously lent some to Charles Rollings, author of Wire and Worse, which deals with RAF PoWs till 1942, and he had photocopied some watercolours, which I have.
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Old 23rd Jul 2016, 11:06
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Fareastdriver (your #8932),
...He may well look into the eyes of somebody and then kills him...
As Kipling put it: "Where is the sense of 'ating those / 'Oom you are paid to kill ?" (Notice how Kipling's rough soldier uses correct English grammar. To the day of his death, my father, educated to the age of 12 (?) in some Victorian Army Cantonment, wrote beautiful copperplate script which put my handwriting to shame).
...Does he really want to escape and return to that?...
ISTR that was irrelevant - it was your duty to escape if you could.

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Old 23rd Jul 2016, 11:53
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it was your duty to escape if you could.
Way back in 1944 Fritz, we used to call him, complete with grey clothes and Luftwaffe forage cap, would heave me on to the back of the farm horse and lead it around the field where I would watch him pitchforking hay into the cart. He lived in a room partitioned off in the barn with a tap and privy outside. Meals were taken with the rest of my Uncle's family.

He was there from 1943 to when they took him back in 1945. He wasn't the only one. There is a substantial number of Italian names in North East Scotland now as a result of Italian prisoners working the farms.

The Berlin Zoo had British POWs looking after the animals and there were many other examples of Allied POWs working in the agricultural sector.

Presumably all of them had undertaken(?) not to escape but how many saw this as a way to escape the dangers of war and the drudgery of a prisoner of war camp.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 23rd Jul 2016 at 16:35.
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Old 23rd Jul 2016, 12:47
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Buster11 (#8933),
...censored both by the Germans and by the British...
Have mentioned this distasteful (but necessary) chore somewhere. The lads knew all about it, and kept their letters bland, but that didn't make it any more pleasant. Who censored my mail? Quis custodiet..? Don't know.
...upper-case script about 1.5mm high...
He would not normally do so. Presumably required by his captors as being easier to read. Same thing on Telegrams at home.
...but I suspect that this was a personal initiative...
And a good one too ! But he was pushing his luck in the questions about "noticing a change" in his handwriting" ! That should have alerted the German Censor, as it did the British. It is no credit to them that they had to enlist the aid of the two ladies to notice what should've been obvious to even a half-witted cryptographer.
...My father was in Oflag Xc, near Lübeck, then Oflag VIB at Warburg and Oflag XXIB at Schubin. From October 1942 until almost the end of the War he was in Stalag Luft III at Sagan,..
You've got me now ! Were there Oflags inside Stalags, as it were, or had all the RAF people been bundled together irrespective of rank ?
...the sketchbooks were lost. Luckily I had previously lent some to Charles Rollings, author of Wire and Worse, which deals with RAF PoWs till 1942, and he had photocopied some watercolours, which I have...
The film producers who did not return the material loaned to them in all good faith should be damned well ashamed of themselves ! All that, and the material you have, should be on permanent loan to the IWM, or the RAF Museum.

Your Father was "a man of many parts", and his war experiences would make a fascinating book in themselves.(Reflect: if you hadn't found us at this late stage, your story (and his) might have died with you (as has Fred's "six weeks dodging the Gestapo" died with him.

Rather an abrupt end - hope there's a lot more to come ! This is exactly what this Thread is "all about".

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 23rd Jul 2016 at 16:01. Reason: Typo !
 
Old 23rd Jul 2016, 14:04
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Mention of Stalag Luft III reminds me that some years ago at a Yacht Club dinner the lady to my left told me in the course of conversation that her first husband had been one of the fifty officers murdered after the Great Escape. A year or so later a retired RAF chaplain, Ray Hubble, and I organised the wake of a naval aviator (and former Queen's Sailing Master) Lt Cdr Alastair Easton, who had also been incarcerated in Stalag Luft III. In the room were three other former occupants of Stalag Luft III. Talk about the hair standing up on the back of one's neck.
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Old 23rd Jul 2016, 14:11
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Italian POW's

Fareastdriver,
your #8935 reminded me that my Grandmother had several Italian POW's
billeted with her.
This was in Perthshire. They lived in a Bothy in the woods.
According to her they ate everything that moved, birds, rabbits...
I have no idea what their real rations would have been. Apparently escape
was not worried about.
Why they were placed with a civilian I have no idea.
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Old 23rd Jul 2016, 15:56
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esa-aardvark,

Don't think they would just be "billeted on her" (in the same sense as the refugee families from the bombing in the towns). More likely working on the land nearby (did she have a farm ? as previous Posts describe).

Danny.
 
Old 23rd Jul 2016, 19:20
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Danny. Your #8936.
As far as I know there was no German (or British for that matter) requirement to write in uppercase; certainly my mother's letters to him were in her normal handwriting as were mine, at the age of seven onwards, though a good deal less legible (and far less legible if I did the same now).

A spot of light Googling tells me that Stalag Luft III was initially for officers only ( not aircrew only, or my father wouldn't have been there), but later an NCOs compound was added.

Re-reading my post (again) my mention of his portraits of fellow PoWs was confusing; the portraits were done in the camps, but must sureoy have been mounted later, as I can't imagine he'd have taken several of them A4 board-mounted on the so-called Long March.

There's a bit more to come yet, but I'll be abroad till mid-August.
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Old 23rd Jul 2016, 19:25
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Buster11 (#8936 again),

Suddenly reminded me of Sabena Captain Reg Levy DFC (RIP), in his gripping account of his high-jacking at Tel Aviv. The highjackers (two men and two women) were not fluent in English, which "regle" (as we knew him here) was using with the Tower. So every time he used the syllable "for" (eg "before", "information", etc), he stressed it, to advise that there were four attackers to be dealt with. Israeli Intelligence picked it up at once, and it was instrumental in the final success when the aircraft was stormed by an Israeli SAS group, which incidentally included two future Prime Ministers of Israel !

They shot the two men and a woman, captured the other woman, the passengers (which included Reg's wife) were released unharmed apart from one woman wounded.

Reg captained the 707 back to Brussels, a hero in Belgium and Israel, and acclaimed throughout the world.

I hesitated to put in this summary, but Reg's book: "Night Flak to High Jack" has been in the book shops for several months now - and in any event. PPRuNe readers in general (and members of this Forum in particular) are only a minuscule part of the book reading public. I have the Kindle version, well worth a read !

Nevertheless, if any of you (or the Moderators) think this infringes his copyright (which must lie with his Estate), tell me, and I will take it down at once !

Danny.
 

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