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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 24th Jun 2009, 10:18
  #881 (permalink)  
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Names !

They are names to conjure with and even revere. I was at a 51 Sqdn. reunion a few years ago and was standing on the Tarmac, talking to a present day Sgt. who had said how good it was to talk to wartime members of the Sqdn. and get their views and experiences. We were awaiting the arrival of the Red Arrows and I suddenly spotted one of our "Veterans" standing in front of a hangar. He was wearing a shabby old mac and a cap.. "You see that chap ?" I said, pointing him out "Well that is the chap that sank the "Tirpitz" in a Norwegian Fjord back in 43/44 " It was Willy Tait. The Sgt. was dumbfounded. "He looks so ordinary!" He said. They were far from ordinary when it counted.
"F for Freddy Pickard", One of the first CO's of 51 and made famous as the pilot of the Wellington in one of the first wartime films "Target for Tonight". He was shot down when leading the raid on Amiens Prison
that helped many POW's to escape their pending execution.
"Wilky" Wilkerson, the revered CO of 51 and the newly formed 578 SQdn. (Formed from C Flight 51 Sqdn . He was the most charismatic man I have ever met, and I met some ! He is also the reason that I am still alive today as he summarily "screened " me when I returned from Berlin on my 29th. Op , the day that my first child was born on 28th. Jan. 1944 saying that "I had done enough ". He was ,tragically, killed when a passenger in a Baltimore that crashed in 1944.
I could go on and on.... It was a time for exceptional men to stand up and be counted and I was fortunate and privileged to serve with so many of them. Reg

Last edited by regle; 25th Jun 2009 at 08:55. Reason: Oops! Wrong date for my son,s birth ! Thanks Kev.
Old 24th Jun 2009, 16:54
  #882 (permalink)  
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This And That

Rmventuri. I think the word signal was used as a general term for any message whether by radio, telephone or written. So crash signal received by R.A.F Casualty Section could have received the message from another section, as distinct from an aircraft.

Andy I dare not describe the Reeperbahn, not only might it upset those of tender years, but how do you know there is not a Mrs Moderator.

Goosequil . I never experienced a Merlin overheating, possibly we were kept moving.

I visited John( Elvington Halifax) and spent some time going through his memorabilia, but apart from the fact that he trained in Rhodesia, his experience was similar to mine, and already covered.
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Old 25th Jun 2009, 11:29
  #883 (permalink)  
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Cliff with now unstinting research did you know that the Reeperbahn is alternatively called " die sŁndige Meile"?

So far as Mrs Uberseer is concerned watch out for the current PC (politically correct) problems of treating all sexes the same!
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Old 25th Jun 2009, 17:04
  #884 (permalink)  
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Hi Cliff,

Thanks for your comment about Merlins not being prone to overheating in your experience - the comment may indeed have been made about trainee pilots not getting things moving quickly enough on a hot day. Thinks: much training was carried in daytime; possibly continuous high boost and revs during Circuits and Landings on summer days might have led to the comment?

I did some flying in the USA years ago, and after a fair amount of 'hot and high' I found myself automatically leaning the mixture for max power once back in the UK - even while taxying on a hot day - something which distressed youthful instructors, who thought it was supposed to be an on/off switch...

Ho hum...


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Old 25th Jun 2009, 20:42
  #885 (permalink)  
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Having the service history detail along with promotion history as been a great aid in approximating the date and likely location of my father and uncles old photographs. Since WO2 did not exist in the RAF would RCAF aircrew of this rank still where this rank on their uniforms while stationed with the RAF? I have noticed in the Snaith ORB's Doug was referred to as F/Sgt when he was WO2?

Cliff - one question on Harrogate. Did all the men stay at the Majestic Hotel or would some be billeted with nearby families? I'm trying to track something down.
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Old 26th Jun 2009, 10:33
  #886 (permalink)  
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Majestic Hotel

Cliff - one question on Harrogate. Did all the men stay at the Majestic Hotel or would some be billeted with nearby families?
RMVENTURI Not sure, but I think all airmen were billeted at the Majestic Hotel I can remember men being bileted out at Heaton Park, but not at Harrogate.

With reference to the rank of W/O (R.A.F) In my pay book is an entry T.W/O. Think T represents temporary, as all wartime non regular ranks were called ,'War substantive'

As usual. Given with all good faith, but not guarantee
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Old 26th Jun 2009, 10:36
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Icare9 How was raid organised ?

The coordination of the stream was a masterpiece of planning and we only had the'phone to do it ! Group T/O times were allocated to meld with other Groups and PFF ,and departure points, times and altitudes were coordinated within Groups. From then on times to get to different assigned altitudes were calculated according to types of aircraft, loads and speeds. From this would develop the times and altitudes over the different check points on the assigned route so that the times for the PFF to drop their T/I and T/P (Track Indicator and Turning Point) flares would be calculated. I was stationed at Wyton with PFF 109 Sqdn . for a brief time to learn about "Oboe" and was able to see the organisation from the Groups and PFF. There was a lot of "Infighting" went on and Squadrons were usually, very unhappy at the perceived "poaching" of their best crews for PFF. They "moaners" got short shrift from two of the toughest individuals that I have ever met; Don Bennett PFF Chief and "Butch" Harris.
Regarding the sightings of Aircraft being shot down; I, like many Captains, did not report or log these . Frankly, and coldheartedly, it became so commonplace an event that I deemed it bad for the morale to dwell upon it. ;It took time and upset the vital concentration required for
the eternal watch for enemy fighters and friendly ,but equally fatal "Near Misses". Also there were so many other things that looked like aircraft explosions but were not. The rumour of "Scarecrow Flak" made to simulate an aircraft exploding was rife and always denied by the powers that be to be nonsense but was widely observed . There was so much going on that it was impossible to do your job properly if you allowed yourself to be diverted by anything. Once again "The Price of Safety is Eternal Vigilance ".
Lastly, for any of you that really want to get their teeth into the very smallest details of a minute by minute account from the start to finish of a Squadron's day of "Ops"(At least eight detailed chapters ) then you should get hold of a copy of "Snaith Days", Life with 51 Sqdn. 1942-45" by Keith Ford. ISBN 0 9517965 1 8. I have never ever seen such attention to detail anywhere. It is not cheap (£13) but it is all there with drawings and plans of equipment and routes even airfield lighting (Drem) systems. It starts with a tour around the Station and you feel that you are there (Over 2,000 personnel !) and even describes the very beds and stoves that we had. I assure you that I have no financial interest whatsoever but you will be surprised at the depth of detail even down to how the sewage was disposed of ! Reg.

Last edited by regle; 26th Jun 2009 at 17:44.
Old 26th Jun 2009, 13:12
  #888 (permalink)  
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Interested to see your mention of the cordination of the stream. Just wondering why so many found they were being bombed from above by their own side.I guess with airfields spread all over the place it was not that easy to ensure those low altitude aircraft like Stirlings did not arrive at the same time as those above in Halifax and Lancasters.

My father was a Flt Lt Stirling pilot and was shot down by a night fighter over Belgium at a place 3k NW of Helchteren.Perhaps you know where that is?

He had a second dickey that night who he was showing the ropes to, a 19 year old Sgt from the RCAF. All of his crew were 10 years younger than my father who was an old man approaching 31! Buried initially at St Truiden then Heverlee cemetry after the war.
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Old 26th Jun 2009, 17:41
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Helchteren , in eastern Belgium ,is a small place about twenty odd miles south of the Dutch City of Eindhoven, Hasselt, a Belgian town is very nearby. Helchteren is on the road between Hasselt and Eindhoven.
When you learn that the concentration of British Aircraft, alone , got to the extent that six hundred and more bombers were taking twenty minutes to fly over the targets, you would ask why more casualties were not caused from "friendly bombing". I have landed more than once with incendiary bombs still sticking out of the top surface of my wings and, in an event related in a previous thread, had a very large bomb go through the roof and out through the empty bomb bay without exploding. The silhouette proved that the bomb was not yet pointing downwards so the aircraft had been just above me...we were bombing in cloud on to flares!
Sorry to hear that your Father was lost in action. I was thankful that I did not fly Stirlings. We used to see them below around 12,000 ft. getting pasted by everything. Reg.

Last edited by regle; 26th Jun 2009 at 18:05.
Old 26th Jun 2009, 22:58
  #890 (permalink)  
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Cool Cliff & Reg Flying memories.

Cliff & Reg,
Just discovered this thread whilst on a nightstop-FANTASTIC stuff been at it for an hour non stop.

I have an uncle who is also 86 ex PFF Lanc(582 Sqn) pilot saw service in 1945-I took him to see the East Kirby Lanc last year and got him onboard for the first time in 60 plus years.He lives in Hull where I noticed your house was bombed.

The stories came with some prompting-nipping "down the back for a smoke" on a daylight return whilst "George & the Flt Eng" flew and the fact that the props were so well balanced in the hangar that a cigarette paper placed on one would cause movement...hes not an emotional man but said that the sight and sounds of the Lanc brought many faces into focus and memories.

Keep your wonderful script coming-its outstanding reading for us younger aviators whose future you helped give us.

Great stuff,IC
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Old 27th Jun 2009, 09:31
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A Huge Privilege

Best weekend of my RAF caree(s) was bein involved as OC Admin at Wyton in the organisation of the Pathfinder 50th Anniversary in 1992. It was huge priovilege to meet so many ordinary people who had done extraordinary things. Don Bennett's widow Ly was with us for that weekend and she was absolutely magic - one of my young squadron leaders was so captivated I thought he was going to ask her for a date! We were talking about what the pre war (by then the execs') MQ had been used for during the war, and then she asked if the tennis court was still there - "I played tennis on those courts with Anthony Eden", she reminisced.

Without exception all the Pathfinders were so modest about their courage and achievements - what a weekend, and so humbling.

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Old 27th Jun 2009, 09:33
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Add "r"

Add "r" to make "careers" - never could proof-read

Apologies, especially if my Basic Staff Course tutor is out there!

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Old 27th Jun 2009, 11:41
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I had some of the best time of my service life at Wyton, too. It was my first taste of a 'peacetime' built station when I was commissioned and I wallowed in the luxury of a well built Officer's Mess after the Nissan huts of previous stations. 51 Sqdn. still have their Xmas Dinner's there and it hasn't changed a bit. I still expect to find the Station Adjutant fast asleep , behind his "Times" in the deep armchair by the fireplace. I remember one night in the Mess we were having a good party and the Station Padre built himself a 'Jacob's Ladder of chairs and tables, climbed precariously (and well fuelled) to the top, stretched out his arms and cried "And the loving arms shall receive me" and launched himself into space. And the loving arms didn't receive him and he broke his collar bone !
I met Don Bennett and Ly a few times , after the war, at the Grosvenor House reunions and also ran into him, not literally, during the Berlin Airlift when he was running a couple of Tudors that he had bought. He asked me to look in the Hangars the next time that I was in Schipol, as he had left a 'Consol' (civvy Oxford) there and had forgotten about it. As this was a matter of years ,I never took it any further. I wonder if it is still there?
Those were the days my friend. Best regards, Reg
Old 27th Jun 2009, 19:54
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Memoirs of a Hawker Typhoon pilot -part 6

I saw Peter over in France a couple of weeks ago, and shared a bottle or two of the local Burgundy. He seemed to be very well, and was pleased that his memoirs were being well received. I have been a bit busy recently, so I haven't been able to post for a while.

Here is part 6. I hope to be able to post some pictures soon.

Our days were fully occupied with ground school, flying instruction, physical training, and drill. Ground school included 'Theory of Flight' which I found fascinating and which no doubt helped me appreciate what the aeroplane was doing and, more important, what it might do if I mishandled the controls. Navigation was another interesting course which I managed very well since it involved geometry and trigonometry, both of which I have always enjoyed.

More practical work was anything from engine starting to rifle shooting - I became quite a good shot with a 0.303 rifle. One day a film crew was visiting the station and I happened to be on the firing range being taught to fire the Vickers belt fed machine gun. I had fired a few short bursts when the RCAF sergeant instructor told me to fire away and keep firing until he tapped me on the shoulder. This was for the benefit of the camera! I naturally did as I was told and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I don't know how long the sustained burst was, but it seemed to go on and on. When I finally felt the tap on my shoulder, the gun, which was cooled by a water jacket, was sizzling and spitting with the heat and even the sergeant thought it a good idea to retire and let it cool off!

One of the ground exercises we were taught but which, fortunately, I only had to do a couple of times, was 'swinging the prop' to start the engine. Most of the time this duty was performed by the ground staff and of course, later on, the aircraft engines had other means of starting. With both the 'Tiger Moth' and the 'Fleet Finch' however there were no such refinements and the engine was started by the old fashioned hand swinging method. There was a very strict system of procedure and method of standing so that you did not risk injury either from a backfire or falling into the started propeller! I never heard of anybody being badly hurt when starting an engine by this method but it always struck me as a very dicey operation!

As the flying instruction progressed, the ground instruction on navigation was translated into actual cross country work and we flew many triangular cross country exercises. My instructor used to sit back in his seat reading a newspaper during these cross-country flights, occasionally taking a glance over the side to check our position. He obviously knew the countryside like the back of his hand and a quick scan was sufficient to tell him if I was straying too far from the desired course.
Instrument flying was another interesting but sometimes frustrating exercise. Although we all did quite a few hours on the ground in the 'Link' trainer, a very basic flight simulator, which gave something of the feel of flying an aircraft, there was no feeling quite like actually flying the aircraft 'under the hood'. This expression was literally what we did since the rear cockpit had a green canvas folding hood which could be brought forward over the pupil pilot's head and secured to the front of the cockpit coming. When this was in position you were in a dim green coloured world with no outside view and was very much like flying in thick cloud.

The flight instruments were the very basic 'needle, ball and airspeed'. No artificial horizon or gyro compass at this stage! The whole knack of keeping control of the aircraft under these circumstances was to totally ignore your feelings of orientation and to scan the three instruments in regular rotation. "Needle, ball, airspeed, needle, ball, airspeed" was the litany of the time. The needle was the needle of the 'Turn and Bank' instrument, and gave the rate of turn. The ball was the ball of the same instrument, a small black ball in a curved glass tube, which showed if you were skidding out or slipping in to a turn. The art was to keep it in the middle at all times. The airspeed of course was just what it says. I must admit that I acquired the nickname 'Airspeed' during this time since my instructors long suffering voice would come over the intercom "Airspeed Brett, Airspeed" and I would hastily realize that I had been ignoring this and we were just about to fall out of the sky! Fortunately we never did actually stall except intentionally.

The trickiest part of instrument flying instruction was 'Recovery from Unusual Positions' an exercise the name of which led to quite a few ribald jokes. Sgt Farrell had quite a few tricks up his sleeve for this exercise. The first one, which really caused all his pupils trouble at first, was to throw the aircraft all over the sky and finish up with all the instruments gyrating wildly but the aircraft flying absolutely straight and level! The object of this was to teach us not to try to react too quickly to the indications of the instruments but to try to analyze the situation before taking too hasty an action. It took me a couple of these flights to latch on to the trick but, as soon as Sgt. Farrell realized that I had, he changed his tactics. This time we would finish up with the aircraft in a shallow spiral dive. After being handed control it took a few seconds to realize that the airspeed was slowly increasing and that the aircraft was in a gentle turn. The natural reaction was to ease back on the control column in order to reduce the airspeed. This had the weird effect of increasing both the airspeed and the rate of turn! The correct action of course was to move the control column sideways to level the wings, correct with the rudder to get the ball back to the middle, and then ease back on the stick to pull out of the dive.

It gradually became easier to get back control of the aircraft after these manoeuvres but, even so, the final trick of handing over the aircraft at the top of a loop with practically no airspeed was startling. The first reaction was to push the stick firmly forward to stop the airspeed dropping any more only to find that one was 'hanging on the straps' and the aircraft was falling out of the sky with no airspeed at all!. Luckily the Fleet Finch was almost as forgiving as the Tiger Moth and the aircraft first stalled upside down, and then fell backwards, completing the loop and ending up in a steep dive from which recovery was easy.

Last edited by tow1709; 27th Jun 2009 at 20:05.
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 07:12
  #895 (permalink)  
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Typhoon memoirs part 6a

If this has worked correctly, you should be able to see (or link to) a "team photo" of ITW5 in Torquay, taken sometime in the winter of 1941/2.

Peter Brett (who, incidentally, is 86 years old tomorrow 29th June) is at the left end of the second row from the back.


I followed all the hints given by Cliff and others, but I am still not confident the picture will appear!
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Old 28th Jun 2009, 09:47
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Memory Lane.

ICT SLB. It is very nice to know that the Poncans still remember . The Americans treat, and remember their veterans better than some countries I know
. Ah, Witchita, reminds me of buying my Hickock belt and cowboy boots in that fair city.

Thanks for the two interesting links. One is signed Paula, ,Paula Dennison ?, who wrote the book 'The R.A.F in Oklahoma.
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Old 30th Jun 2009, 21:37
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After the Lord Mayor's show comes the..........

To those of you who have never heard of this ancient adage, it refers to the time when all transport, and in particular, the annual splendid "Lord Mayor's Show" was horse drawn. " Muck cart" was the end of the proverb. You will see what I mean as you go along.
On the 17th. July 1949 I made the last of 113 sorties from Hamburg and RAF Wunstorf to Berlin and back with a load of Motor Fuel and then eventually flew a Dakota back to an England that was suddenly flooded with Pilots all looking for jobs. My Log book( No2) showed that I had 2,793 Flying hours.
Flying was regarded as a dangerous and a very expensive luxury that could only be undertaken by comparatively well off people. As a result there were few, if any vacancies for pilots to be had in aviation and I had to take a succession of various poorly paid and very dull jobs. I sold toilet rolls around the small Hotels and Boarding Houses of Padddington and Victoria. The only good thing that came of that is I practically obtained "The Kowledge" sought by London taxi Drivers by driving a small van around the various Hotel and "Pension" districts. I had a brief spell as a counter assistant in Bewlay's pipe and tobacco shop at the side of the Savoy Hotel in the Strand and then salvation came in the shape of an advertisement in "The Aeroplane" magazine requiring people to be trained as Air Traffic Controllers. ( I hope that you are taking note of all this Kookabat , Jabberwok and Co.!).
I went for an interview at Ad Astral House in Kingsway, I think, and was lucky enough to be recognised from my Captains' Check Pilot days at Aldermaston by several of the Board of Examiners. I was accepted for training at the School for Air Traffic Controllers at Hurn, near Bournemouth, but it would be three months before my course would start and I had to do something to make ends meet until then.
I think that the worst job was that of a "Tallyman" in the Croydon area. A Tallyman was employed to collect the pennies and sixpences from the poor customers of firms who sold household goods, clothes etc. from door to door on the "never, never" as Hire Purchase was called then. This was the very bottom of the barrel and I shall never forget the poverty that I saw and the stories that I was told as to why they couldn't pay the odd pennies and threeoences that they owed each miserable week. Thank God, it didn't last long because flying began to pick up a little and I had kept valid the B Licence that I had obtained by swotting in a school in Manchester ( and watching Compton and Edrich score lots of runs at Old Trafford for England).
I now started to freelance at Croydon where various pre-war firms were starting up again using De Havilland Rapides, Oxfords, and even single-engined planes like the Proctor etc. which I rapidly swotted up and added to my licence. The two main firms were Olleys and Mortons both of them solid and well known as pre-war pioneers. The Chief Pilot of Mortons was Captain Bebb, one of the true pre war charter pilots. The firms only employed one or two pilots on a regular basis and relied on freelance ones in the summer and at weekends. The regular pay was thirty shillings per hour and was very welcome especially as the odd trip to Le Touqet, Le Zoute etc. enabled you to bring back the odd steak or two as well as some wine. Yes, meat was still strictly rationed in 1950 !
It was during this period that I got talking to a chap in a pub in the West End of London who told me that the B.B.C. were looking for someone to replace an Announcer for the Sports News on the BBC World Service. He gave me the address of a Mr. Lotbiniere to contact. One of the tallest men that I had ever seen greeted me courteously and arranged for an immediate voice test . "Lobby", as everyone called him, told me that the job was mine on a temporary basis at the really princely sum of fifteen guineas a week. I was to read the Sports news for the World Service at 0645 in the morning for fifteen minutes and then, again at 1900 hrs. As there was no public transport at 5 in the morning when I had to leave our flat in Clapham, the BBC sent a taxi to get me to Portland Place. I had to take the mundane tram for the later one in the evening.
Old 1st Jul 2009, 05:08
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I hope that you are taking note of all this Kookabat , Jabberwok and Co.!
Taking note, and hanging on every word, Reg. Fantastic stuff.

Did you end up actually doing ATC?
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Old 1st Jul 2009, 08:49
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Post 900


Hi Kevin,

As instructed by your P.M am posting POST 900. Remind me when it is 1000.

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Old 1st Jul 2009, 11:48
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Cheat!! I thought at least a pearl of wisdom and report on your visit!!
Still, keep it simple, stupid, is a good maxim!!
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