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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 28th Jul 2016, 06:57
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Old Comrades

As night fell on that second evening, we started to cross the open country once more. By sound from the railways and direction from the night sky, we made our way southwards again. We made good progress in the circumstances, and we stopped at regular intervals to check the compass bearing as well as we could in the darkness. Once we bumped into a couple of German railway workers who were inquisitive enough to question us. George told them that we were Frenchmen, but they tried to detain us, and we finally swung out wildly at them with our full rucksacks, and beat it as fast as we could.

Walking again throughout the night, we were feeling very tired by morning, and wanting to hole up somewhere. We approached the railway lines once more, and not far from a station we found some air raid shelters. They were well-built, with separate "wings" leading off the main corridor, each containing four or six bunk beds, without bedding. We crept along about halfway, and were very pleased to rest our weary legs. We slept very well, in fact. When I awoke at about 6.30 in the evening, I roused the other two and suggested it was about time we prepared to move. George felt very sluggish, and wanted to sleep some more. Although I was impatient, I waited for him to recover for some time. Eventually, I told him that we had to go - it was getting late for us to start our night trek.

We had just about got ourselves into order with all our clothes on, when we heard approaching footsteps along the dark concrete passageway, and before we could leave our little cell, we were confronted by two railwaymen, obviously supervisors, both with flashlights and both armed with revolvers. We tried to convince them we were French workers who had missed their train to their lodgings, but without success. We were made to go with them at the point of their guns, and were soon in the hands of the German Army again. We were locked up for the night in a small building used as a temporary prison, with plenty of guards outside. Every time we made some movement, there was a huge commotion, and the guard commander came in two or three times to threaten us that we would be shot if we dared to attempt any further escape!

Eventually, we were returned to our working camp, where the NCO in charge ("Unterfeldwebel") was in dire trouble for allowing us to escape. We were bullied, threatened, pushed around and generally manhandled, but not with any serious injury. The guards demanded to know how we had escaped, and who had helped us. We misled them very well with our prepared story, and they did not get any useful information.

The first direct result of our escapade was that all Red Cross parcels from that time were opened in front of all prisoners, before being issued, and every can of food was punctured with a bayonet, so that it could not be stored or hoarded for escape purposes. Tin cans in those days were not safe, and food contained in them would cause Ptomaine poisoning if left inside for more than a few days,
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Old 28th Jul 2016, 11:44
  #8982 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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ian16th (your #8980),
...But you have a TS post code, and my birth certificate says North Riding...
It would - it was issued long before "Cleveland" was dreamed of, and things were simple. Everything North of the Tees was County Durham, and everything South was North Riding of York.

So when I was in Thornaby I was in Yorkshire, and when I had a five-minute ride over the bridge into Stockton, I was in Durham.

Caused some difficulty once, when one of our 608 (Auxiliary) Squadron, on Summer Camp at El Adem (?) was killed in a Vampire. The body was flown home to Thornaby, and taken to a hospital in Stockton. Fall-out: two Coroners in bitter demarkation dispute, with us as "Piggies-in-The-Middle".
...You have a TS post code...
True. But why won't bureaucrats leave us alone ? In my first years as a VATman up here, all the North York moors nearly down to Whitby were in our baileywick. In the summers it was a lovely job. My "clients" were mostly farmers, and they were straight out of "All Creatures Great and Small". (Incidentally, "James Herriot", was Alf Wight: on occasion, I took our little doggie to his surgery in Churchgate when we lived in Thirsk).

Farmers are normally "Repayment Traders" (ie they don't pay us - we pay them ! - except for the ones who'd specialised in the most lucrative and least laborious crop of all - renting space for overwintering "townie's" caravans). Consequently, we were made welcome, there would always be a strong cup of tea and home-baked scones with freshly made butter waiting on the farmhouse kitchen table for us.

Of course, we "knew the form": wear your oldest suit and old rugger stockings and always have a shovel and a pair of gumboots in the boot. When farm in sight, stop and put gumboots on - for you might have to go through fields, open and close gates, (curious cows spend a lot of time "marking time" at them), then park in farmyard and tread through an inch or two of liquid something to reach the door. Then gumboots off, and go padding on the cool stone floors like everybody else. Effusive greeting from muddy collie (once reassured that you are not an enemy).

Get file out of bag and start work.

What about the Bureaucrats ? Next time !

Danny.
 
Old 28th Jul 2016, 12:34
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RAF Watton (as was) has an Ipswich post code
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Old 28th Jul 2016, 13:52
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It would - it was issued long before "Cleveland" was dreamed of, and things were simple.
Part of the confusion is that Cleveland already existed!

It went from Redcar almost to Whitby on the coast, and of course inland to include the Cleveland Hills.

It was a parliamentary constituency for donkey's years.

Looking at this map the whole of Yorkshire has slipped a way down south since I went to school.
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Old 28th Jul 2016, 14:30
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ian,
...It was a parliamentary constituency for donkey's years...
Never knew that ! Thought it was just a vague area - "The Cleveland Hills", for example. We have a "Redcar and Cleveland" constituency next door now (the other side of the railway line).

Plus ça change.........

Danny.
 
Old 28th Jul 2016, 16:27
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1885–1974

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clevel..._constituency)
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Old 29th Jul 2016, 10:49
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Old Comrades

Life became more and more desperate and unhappy. We were made to work very long hours. Although natural inclination was not to put too much into the job anyway, the fact that we were on minimum rations and away from our barracks for twelve hours and more every day made us weak and tired. We all did our best I believe, to skimp the work as much as possible, but still we were made to do more than we ever wanted.

The work of railway maintenance continued around Annaburg and district. We hauled heavy rail lines, sleepers and other equipment, punched blue metal under the sleepers for many hours daily, and generally had a mean time working for the Third Reich!

The summer of 1944 in Germany was rather good as far as weather was concerned. We were kept abreast of the war news by friendly French workers who supplied us with information gleaned from illicit listening to the BBC and other foreign sources. I well remember working on a line quite close to a big town somewhere, when after an excited whispered conversation with a Frenchman, George announced to us all that the Allied invasion had started. It was 6th June of course, and we knew of the event within hours of its commencement.

The next day, I was suddenly grabbed by a guard as we were about to leave our barracks, and carted off to the local lock-up. Without trial or confrontation I had been given seven days bread and water for my escape attempt. I was the first of our trio to be punished. In truth, it was quite a rest for me. I was in the village jail, with a hard wooden platform for a bed, one blanket, bread and water for food and the company of one book which I had smuggled into my small pack of clothing. The book was a Red Cross issue, Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, and it is still one of my favourite stories. In return for cutting up a great pile of firewood logs for the jail-keeper one day, I was given a bowl of hot soup.

On 12th July 1944, there was an assassination attempt on Hitler. At a high level military gathering, a bomb was planted under the planning table where maps and tactics were being studied. Hitler escaped with minor injuries, and a remorseless hunt started for the plotters. Several high ranking officers were involved, and a terrible vengeance was exacted on those arrested. General Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox” was implicated, but because he was such a popular public figure he was persuaded to commit suicide. (This story is well documented, and I won’t expand upon it).

As a “thanksgiving” for the Fuehrer’s escape from death it was decreed that all workers would increase their output to 12 hours daily. This included poor bloody prisoners, of course, and by that time we had been moved to new accommodation in a village about 10 miles from our original prison compound. We were billetted in an old dance hall attached to a public house, of all places! Strange though it sounds, that hall became our home for the next several months. It was thoroughly secured and guarded. We didn’t see much of it, however. The new decree meant that we were “roused” about 5a.m., and after a quick wash and a frugal breakfast we were marched to work, arriving at 6a.m. to start our 12- hour stint. A brief break for a midday meal was allowed, but there was very little for us yo eat.We were always extremely grateful for the Red Cross parcels, for without them we would have starved.

During our stay in the new billets in August 1944, I had a letter from home (purportedly sent to me by my mother as a “nephew” because of my changed identity) telling me that “my cousin” (that was me) had been commissioned in the Royal Air Force on 27.10.43 as a Pilot Officer, and that he had been promoted to Flying Officer on 27.4.44. Well, that was good news and helped to make the day’s task much lighter, for a change. I was even able to celebrate, because the inn-keeper was not averse to selling us a glass of the local brew, through a hatchway in the wall, on the rare occasions after we had received a meagre PoW payment of German money from the railway contractors.

In due course we returned to our old camp at Annaburg. George, Fred and I were put onto "coaling". This entailed unloading coal briquettes from laden railway wagons in a siding. We were given long handled shovels, large clumsy tools to my eye, and we spent many hours shovelling out of the truck on to the ground in the siding. It was unpleasant work. We were smothered in coal dust; it was in our eyes and ears, up our noses and in our mouths. All the time we were under the watchful eye of either the “postern” (the soldier set to guard us) or of the civilian railway employee in charge.

From time to time, we were called out on emergency work to some distant town or city that had been bombed, to fill in craters in the railway yards, repair the lines, and generally help the German war effort to keep on the move. It annoyed us profoundly that we were made to do such work, but apart from protesting there was little we could do about it. Several of us tried to be more positive on one occasion, when we stood around a half-repaired line at a scene of dereliction caused by Allied bombing and refused to pick up our tools and work. Soldiers were quickly called to surround us. The officer in charge told us in no uncertain terms that we would be shot if we did not obey. We didn’t move. He gave orders to the soldiers, they levelled their rifles at us, and he began to count loudly. We quickly got on with the job!
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Old 29th Jul 2016, 14:08
  #8988 (permalink)  
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Grrr Post Code Polka !

ian16th (as promised - I'm trying the Moderators' infinite patience - this is the end of this !)

Those were the halcyon days. Going out on a sunny morning in plenty of time for my appointment (for "Punctuality is the Politeness of Princes"), I would often stop on a moorland road, get out and enjoy the solitude for a few moments. There would be absolute silence, broken only by birdsong and the gentle bleating of sheep. Not another human being in sight from horizon to horizon. From a village in the valleys wisps of smoke might drift up from a farm or cottage chimney. Far to the East were occasional glimpses of the sea. ("Where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile" - have I got it right?)

It was just possible to be out of sight of Fylingdales, and Danby Beacon (the "Chain Home" towers) had been there so long that they were part of the landscape. Then on to find my farm. No easy matter, sometimes. Of course I'd done my best to get full instructions over the phone, but they were of the nature of "Go on through village, turn right by church, go down t'lane till Black Bull, turn left and go up hill. Tha can't miss us lad".

Oh yes, lad could. But I always found the farm in good time and was welcomed as before. (Noted position of "Black Bull", as would probably be "doing" that next month). Then I could often put a smile on the weatherbeaten old face before me. Farmer often has to buy expensive machinery (say £36,000 Combine). Yorkshiremen hold on to t'brass. It would be on finance.

But the "supply" had taken place: he was the owner in law, and entitled to treat as "Input Tax" (and recover from us) all the VAT on the whole price (£6,000 at current rates), notwithstanding that it formed only a small element in his monthly repayments. (At the same time we would "do" the supplier for the whole £6,000, so it balanced). What arrangements supplier, farmer and moneylender had made between themselves was none of our business. (If the Revenue had to wait till money changed hands before it got its share, it might have to wait a very long time ! So we don't do it). I would get strawberry jam on my scone that day.

I always recorded on file the exact 6-figure Grid reference of the farmhouse, and told the farmer's wife to put away a note of it carefully. Who knows ? One future winter, the place is nine feet deep in snow, nothing can get to it by road, there is a medical emergency at that farm. But the phones are still working....The rescue helicopter is on its way, but where is the farm ? "Black Bull" is just a hillock in the snow. But farmer's wife remembers, little scrap of paper is fished out, the vital six figures passed to the chopper, the day is saved ! VATman/BATman hero of the day, appears on BBC "Look North" (well I can dream, can't I ?) Of course, the reference was for our own use. One day I, or somebody like me, would need to go back up there.

Two or three years later, all turned to ashes. Some busybody in Whitehall, with not enough to do, noted that all the N.Yorks farms were on YO post codes. But Middlesbrough VAT Office was on TS. Shock, horror. They should be in York's purview. York had a VAT sub-office at Scarborough. Transfer all the files to Scarborough. I would be up on the moors no more. No matter that Middlesbrough had better and quicker access to the area from the North than Scarborough had from the South, and we could service the North York moors far more efficiently. Whitehall had spoken - tremble and obey.

I hope the Scarborough VATmen/women found my Grid Refs useful.

Danny.
 
Old 29th Jul 2016, 15:34
  #8989 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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ian, (#8987),

Thanks for useful link:
...DNA testing has also revealed how the people of Yorkshire are officially the most British people in the land, with their genetic makeup containing an average 41 per cent Anglo-Saxon stock...
Much input from the Vikings (as you know, York was a Viking settlement). They were over here a thousand years ago, sacking, burning, pillaging and raping (did the local blood stock no end of good). All place names ending "-by" are witness to their spread.
...while the people of Wales have the highest proportion of ancestry from Spain and Portugal...
We have the Spanish Armada to thank for this !
...the Armada was disrupted during severe storms in the North Atlantic and a large number of the vessels were wrecked on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland...
Wiki]
With a West-facing coastline, I would think Wales got its share. The survivors struggled ashore, same long term result as before!

Danny.
 
Old 29th Jul 2016, 16:10
  #8990 (permalink)  
Danny42C
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Walter,
...(that was me) had been commissioned in the Royal Air Force on 27.10.43 as a Pilot Officer, and that he had been promoted to Flying Officer on 27.4.44...
and
...It annoyed us profoundly that we were made to do such work, but apart from protesting there was little we could do about it...
Bit confused now - were you still in your Irish persona, or had they rumbled you and knew who you really were ? And if so, was there any way in which the Germans could be officially advised of your changed status (say by Red Cross ?).

ISTR that officers cannot be made to work, and should be transferred to an Oflag - but how did that work in practice ? And in any case, you would not want to be parted from your friends. But think of the nice little nest-egg piling up for you in some British bank !

Danny.
 
Old 29th Jul 2016, 18:56
  #8991 (permalink)  
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Walter (further to my last),
...after we had received a meagre PoW payment of German money from the railway contractor...
Fredghh (RIP) had to pay for being "shorn to the bone" when they captured him. Did you have to pay for your haircuts ?

Did POWs receive any "pocket money" (which supposedly was charged back to the British Government after the war, and offset against accumulated pay ? You heard strange stories when the POWs came home after "V" Day.
... scene of dereliction caused by Allied bombing...
Even though it made more work for you, it must have been a morale-booster for the POWs !

Danny.
 
Old 29th Jul 2016, 20:04
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Hi Danny

Oh dear hadn't noticed the spouse for scouse error!
I'm an Aigburth lad myself so know Seffie Park very well. My better half hails from Manchester so for the past 40yrs quite literally I've been sleeping with the enemy plus having two sons supporting Liverpool and two supporting Man Utd-very complicated!
SF
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Old 29th Jul 2016, 21:44
  #8993 (permalink)  
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Scouse Flyer,

Luckily Mrs D. doesn't read PPRuNe ! (think nothing of it).

Liverpool was never the same since they got rid of the trams ("Green Goddesses" - four wheelers in the old days), and cleaned the Liver Building !
... having two sons supporting Liverpool and two supporting Man Utd-very complicated!...

Take to the hills on big match days !

Danny.
 
Old 30th Jul 2016, 07:28
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Danny42C
Your 8991-92. I had no intention to let the Goons know that I had a false ID.
As to "pay" and "pocket money", to the best of my knowledge there was none for all those insiders of Stalags and Offlags. My 3 or 4 months when in IVB I don't remember any payments whatever. As working PoWs, we were paid small amounts at irregular intervals, never more that 10 to 15 Marks and I don't know how much it was worth in shillings and pence.
Haircuts were few and far apart. In our "working lager" there was an obliging barber who obliged and was paid with cigarettes, either from home parcels or from dreadful Polish fags that came to us from Red Cross.
I was certainly pleased with my RAF pay sitting in a bank account when I got home.
Walter.

Last edited by Walter603; 30th Jul 2016 at 07:35. Reason: Missed info
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Old 30th Jul 2016, 09:18
  #8995 (permalink)  
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Walter603,
...10 to 15 Marks and I don't know how much it was worth in shillings and pence...
As these would be Reichmarks, I don't suppose they were convertible currency during the war ! (I understand the Germans had managed to print millions of very good forgeries of the old white £5 and £10 notes; these they hoped to put into circulation in neutral countries, with a view to ruining the Bank of England). There is supposed to be a giant cache of these notes in sealed containers at the bottom of some Austrian lake to this day.

Danny.
 
Old 30th Jul 2016, 09:29
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My grandfather used to get those at his grocery shop after the war. In those days they were so rare that recipients would insist that one would write their name and sign it before handing it over.

There were loads signed by Hitler, Goering, Himmler etc.al.
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Old 30th Jul 2016, 09:50
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Walter:-
I had no intention to let the Goons know that I had a false ID.
Like Danny, it struck me that in assuming the role of a soldier, and so able to take advantage of the opportunities to escape in the outside world of work-parties (as against the caged inside world of an RAF officer), you had condemned yourself to a life of gruelling physical toil. Your alter ego meanwhile led a life of ease and comfort (well, perhaps not so much of the latter). Just as your new friends didn't betray you to the Germans, so presumably neither did his. Which leads me to wonder how widespread a phenomena was this? It certainly seems to have been picked up quickly back home, making the pair of you "cousins"! I certainly can't recall any such ID swapping in the multitude of POW stories that I soaked up in the '50s. Of course, it needed the brief and exceptional opportunity that you so readily seized when it presented itself, and it certainly seems to have been an excellent means of subverting the German bureaucracy that concentrated on securing RAF aircrew to the utmost whilst also exploiting to the full the labour of British ORs. Let's hope that you soon see another chance to exploit it further...
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Old 30th Jul 2016, 10:27
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Your other half did very well, being promoted from a common soldier to Flying Officer in a couple of months.
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Old 30th Jul 2016, 10:49
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Those fake notes at the bottom of the lake - no Spitfires with them then...................
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Old 30th Jul 2016, 10:54
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Ah, the white Fiver. Now that was real money, not like that technicolour European 'Monopoly' stuff
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