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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 15th Oct 2016, 08:02
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Hi Danny et al, seeing the yellow Harvards reminded me of something I came across a while ago. I don't know if it has been refered to before but here is the link anyway :Harvards Above: The History Of World War Two RAF Fleet Air Arm Training In Kingston & Gananoque, Ontario, Canada

I hope these memoirs may be helpful.
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Old 15th Oct 2016, 10:32
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Flt Lt John Dunbar DFC (RIP) Five into four won't go

On the 'missing tape' John tells the story of the rescue again, but with a little more detail.

We were asked to go in to pick up four bodies from a place fifty miles behind the Japanese lines, a place we had never heard of, way over the hills the other side of the Satang river. When we did any job behind the lines which involved taking people in or out we were never allowed to know names and there is no record kept of any of those flights, which is a very interesting situation because I asked why the poor pilots were never asked to the 136 Force re unions. The answer I got was “ We never knew who you were”. We had strict instructions not to log these flights. On this particular job all we knew was that there were four people to bring out from this particular location. We knew no more about it, whether they were RAF or Army, they were just bodies to bring out.
As is such, whenever you are landing behind the lines, there was a code in the form of strips of parachute. In France on occasions they had radio contact with the ground, we had no radio at all.
In this case the signal was X for unsafe and a U if safe so this is what we are looking for. We went at tree top height and close to the spot I climbed to two thousand feet otherwise you would not spot a clearing and luckily hit the clearing first time. Much to my astonishment there is no X but an L. The first reaction is to think L stands for land. I thought “No, no, no Dunbar, don't be fooled.”
You doubt, have I got it wrong? Did I have the recognition signals wrong or had they been given to me wrong?
So what I did, I motioned the other three to stay where they were and went down to have a look.
Now luckily, being suspicious, because when you are in this situation you tend to think the worst can possibly happen to you, I put the L5 through it's paces and 'General Ginger' for the first time hit 150knots. I dived down, came across the strip and was welcomed by a large number of Japanese charging out of the trees whooping of at me and so it was a matter of screaming across the strip flat out and heading back home having made frantic signals to the boys above.
One of the sequels to that trip was that we had a signal from 136 Force saying that they 'had been victims of the ungodly'. The signal is in my log book. I went back the following day to have another look and there was the L standing out. I went on my own hoping they had twigged as we hadn't landed. Nothing but the L was there and we forgot all about it. That was it. The japs had got the strip and there was no way we could land as I discovered the hard way.
A week later we were asked if we would have another go for fears for the bods were mounting. It's a fairly easy decision to take – you know what is awaiting you but you also know the fate awaiting these guys. We were always very conscious of it. I remember when we arrived and joined 4Corps Aheadquarters we had a briefing from Major Gibson as to what the job was going to be. Inevitably one of the pilots said “By the way, what happens if we come down behind the lines?” Gibson said “ Oh, that's easy for me to answer. The only armament you have of course on your aircraft is a .38 revolver. You have six bullets, use five, save one. Under no circumstances must you fall into the hands of the japs.” We all knew what happened to prisoners who the japs took.
So we said we would have another go. I had been there twice to this place and had got to know it so off we go and bingo, all is fine. I did a very careful circuit of the place. It looked very tight, this clearing, but you have got to have a go. All four of us landed safely and a bunch of bods came out of the jungle, not japs this time. W e taxy over there and in front of this group is this very imposing character, obviously a white man, with an enormous black beard and he rushes up to the plane and gets to the cockpit. I expected to be greeted with”Oh, thank God you've come”. “Where is the fifth plane?”he shouts. I was taken aback and said” Sorry but there are four of you to take out”. He said there were five. I said sorry but I was told to take out four and that is all I have. “Well can we get two in a plane?” I replied “To begin with I'm not convinced we can get off with just one of you it is so tight”. I didn't know at this time the Lysander had crashed. I realised we had a problem and it was at this stage that I switched off the engine.
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Old 15th Oct 2016, 11:56
  #9543 (permalink)  
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BB (#9543),

Wonderful stuff - now we're getting down to the"nitty-gritty" ! (at Cannanore we used the same strips of sheet system at the CDRE gas-bombing and spraying ranges: it was one strip for "carry on as planned", two for "wait", and "X" for "Go home").
...a place we had never heard of...
Or could pronounce ? (D. rabbets about in his log, comes up with "kyathwengyaungywa" - beat that, if you can).
...it was at this stage that I switched off the engine...
We all know what's coming next, don't we ?

Keep up the good work !

Danny.
 
Old 15th Oct 2016, 20:30
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Flt Lt John Dunbar DFC (RIP) Five into four won't go.

Taken from two tapes

General Messervey had a habit, if he could he liked to move his Corps Headquarters right onto the jap lines as we moved forward. It's ridiculous, I mean there is the story of the 'bayonet charge' I had to lead and have told you about on many occasions. The fact that I was wearing red silk pyjamas that hadn't been washed for three months is irrelevant. To explain, we had to make certain we were in 'the box' every night.

I was made aware of the box when we had pitched our tents and were about to turn in on the first night of a move. This was at Towngoo when the japs are going back to Siam. A sergeant appeared at the tent and said we had to be inside the box. I asked why and was told “We can't get to you out there, so if you are in danger you need to be in the box.” I remember saying “I'm a bloody pilot, what is all this?” The box was a ring of sentries around the HQ.

We were quite some distance from the box and it was very late indeed. There were four of us in the tent. I remember saying to them to go to the others, the engineers etc, get them outside my tent and to make sure they brought all the ammunition they had got. We had a corporal cook seconded to us from the army who had a touch of shell shock. I said tell the cook I want his fixed bayonet. LAC Moulton had a Japanese machine gun that we had acquired at Meiktila. “What the bloody hell's that?” “ It's a machine gun sir” “ Does it work?” “ Don't know sir” “What the bloody hell!”. There were japs around us and this incredibly inane conversation was going on. Eventually I said to this corporal cook “ I know this isn't done, but I have to lead you into the box whether you like it or not. Please may I borrow your rifle because I shall feel a lot safer?” It was a fair walk through the jungle along a narrow path. I hadn't given this a thought, but when we get to the box we get the “Halt, who goes there?” They couldn't believe what they saw.

General Messervey told me this the next day. He said “I've heard all about it Ginger. I've heard the story. The sentries stopped you and there's this apparition of a pilot wearing red silk pyjamas holding my cook's rifle and bayonet. You were lucky to get in! You were lucky they let you in”
He was laughing his head off.

To be continued
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Old 15th Oct 2016, 22:05
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Great stuff, BB, thank you. The Army deployment in war is a mystery wrapped in an enigma to most in the RAF, but we have all heard of the Battle of the Admin Box and how vital it was to our Arakan campaign in 1944. Sounds like the General had the right idea to gather his chicks into the relative safety of the coop, whatever their attire!
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Old 16th Oct 2016, 12:13
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BB,

Now top that - if you can ! (Anybody ?)

Danny.

?...♫....."she'll be wearing silk pyjamas when she comes"....♫.... ?
 
Old 16th Oct 2016, 16:09
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Flt Lt John Dunbar DFC (RIP) Five into four won't go

Taken from three tapes

There are one or two stories I could tell which involve awfully bad language and one or two of them that are anti American. There are nasty stories it is best not to talk about. On one occasion I was landing behind one of my pilots who had been sent in in an Expeditor because we couldn't cope with the numbers we were bringing out.. He was landing in front of me and he got one of the shells burst underneath him and he slewed off the runway, the undercarriage collapsing. There was just this pile of Expeditor beside the runway. I'm coming up behind him so I just taxied
over, got out and I'm looking down at the cockpit. Where's Mac? And there he is, sitting in the cockpit with a look of shock on his face. I said “ You all right?” and he said “ They've shot me up the arse.” He was sitting with a bottom full of shrapnel. So I said “ Can you move?”. I pulled him out – my engine is still running beside the wreckage. I just chucked him in you see and taxied back in to the dispersal area.

You can't believe it, but the dispersal area was just an ammunition dump. The army were there for twenty eight, twenty nine days. I shout to this medical orderly, the only corporal in the RAF to get the MM. I said “ For God's sake go and get the Doc” There was this wonderful Fl Lt. He came over and I said “ Can you patch him up?”

Every morning we did a bayonet charge down the strip because the japs used to occupy the strip every night and on day twenty seven or was it twenty eight, whenever it was, I was asked to go in there at the crack of dawn with blood plasma. I was met by the famous corporal and he said “ The Doc's not around sir” “ What do you mean, not around?” He said “He was the only officer left alive last night so felt he had to lead the bayonet charge to clear the strip,” which he did. I don't know where he had gone when I came in but he eventually appeared and I said “ Isn't it about time that I flew you out for a bit of a rest?” He said “ We've just got a signal through – the tanks are half a mile out” They got through that morning to break the ring round the strip.


To be continued.
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 09:26
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JD (c/o BB):-
Every morning we did a bayonet charge down the strip because the japs used to occupy the strip every night
Rather puts the daily runway FOD check into perspective doesn't it? This "FOD check" with fixed bayonets led by a Flt Lt MO (the only officer left alive) at that! It really brings home the dangerous and violent reality of a forward airstrip completely surrounded by the enemy. Lucky that relief is almost there! Presumably the Corporal is easily identifiable if he was indeed unique in being the only RAF one awarded the MM?

I must say that the Beechcraft Expeditor seems to be a rather large machine to get into such an airstrip, let alone one that is under constant shellfire!

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Old 17th Oct 2016, 09:46
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BB, thanks for the pics of the Harvard at Kemble. At first sight it seems incongruous that this aircraft, vital to the training of allied pilots for defeating inter alia the German Air Force, should appear in the insignia of the Luftwaffe. But this of course is the post war Luftwaffe, pulling itself up by its bootstraps. This one wasn't though:-

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Old 17th Oct 2016, 10:55
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BB (#9548),
...“He was the only officer left alive last night so felt he had to lead the bayonet charge to clear the strip” ...
How can you top that ? I've had to send a chap out to fill in ratholes (or rather the mounds of spoil dug out by said rats), had to buzz herds of goats off before a landing, and had to painstakenly explain to the locals that this wasn't their maidan (Park) any more and no, they couldn't have their picnics or play cricket on this nice level strip we'd prepared.

But this leaves me speechless !

Danny.
 
Old 17th Oct 2016, 11:40
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There is no doubt Danny that these memories were seared into John's mind. I knew him as a friend for fifteen years. I was able to have the late Ken Aitken do two paintings for John, he would say " I see those paintings every morning and Burma is with me"
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 11:42
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“He was the only officer left alive last night so felt he had to lead the bayonet charge to clear the strip”
Wasn't this sort of activity the reason for creating the RAF Regiment?
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 12:37
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Indeed it was, Ian, but more so for defending RAF airfields (temporary or otherwise) than airstrips embedded with the Army and that move with the Army. If this MO had been the last officer standing with Regiment rather than Army troops defending the airstrip, I suspect he would have done exactly the same thing (though no doubt any Regiment NCO would have tried hard to dissuade him!).
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 14:53
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In a Cooler Climate

This season's RCAF CF-18 display aircraft celebrates the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan with a splendid color scheme:



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Old 17th Oct 2016, 15:11
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Indeed it was, Ian, but more so for defending RAF airfields (temporary or otherwise) than airstrips embedded with the Army and that move with the Army. If this MO had been the last officer standing with Regiment rather than Army troops defending the airstrip, I suspect he would have done exactly the same thing (though no doubt any Regiment NCO would have tried hard to dissuade him!).
I have a recollection of recently reading of a similar situation, where each morning the RAF Regiment cleared an enemy from an airfield/runway. But not just where.

Sorry, I'll plead senility.
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 17:29
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ian16th:-
each morning the RAF Regiment cleared an enemy from an airfield/runway
If you are talking about Burma in WWII, could it have been Meiktila? A very similar situation to that which JD describes was at that airfield, with just a F/O and a P/O left to lead the recapture of the runway from the Japanese troops that had occupied it during the night. I guess its a question of scale, if you have a substantial air operation involving (in this case Daks and Spits) then the RAF Regiment were there to keep it operational each day. If you were only using L5s and Expeditors (!) then it was a DIY task to do so. This aspect of the Regiment's history can be found in Constant Vigilance: The RAF Regiment in the Burma Campaign by Nigel Warwick.
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 18:20
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Chugalug (#9550),

What sticks in the memory was a Lockheed T-33 which came into Thorney Island '58-'59. First one I'd seen from the GAF. Think it had the old Gothic black crosses on the sides. Was in the top tower - sent a shiver down my spine !

But of course we were all pals then (and now).

Danny.

Alles vorbei !
 
Old 17th Oct 2016, 19:42
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If you are talking about Burma in WWII, could it have been Meiktila?
Maybe, sorry I just have this vague recollection of reading something.

Edited to add:
With a little help from Giggle I found this: raf-regt-meiktila-dinner-raf-honington/

Last edited by ian16th; 17th Oct 2016 at 20:06.
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Old 17th Oct 2016, 20:05
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Seems that Meiktila was considered a key battle for the Regiment, as this excerpt from the RAF's MOD site would imply:-

The Corps played a significant role in the Far East, operating ostensibly in India and Burma. It was in Burma that the RAF Regiment fought the battle for which it had been raised. The airstrip of Meiktila was deep behind enemy lines, for 10 long days the Japanese soldiers were repelled in order to allow air operations to continue.
The RAF Regiment - History

Danny as you say, a lot of reorientation was required then as old enemies became new allies, and vice versa...
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Old 18th Oct 2016, 07:16
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Back in the 1980s, a bunch of reprobate F-4 chums were drinking in a mess bar with their Luftwaffe colleagues. As the evening wore on, someone decided that it would be a good idea to sing 'The flag flies high at the masthead', which, for younger viewers, is loosely based on the wartime German song 'Wir fahren gegen Engeland'...

There was rather an embarrassed silence after they'd finished singing; the Luftwaffe mates looked at each other, slammed their beers down on the bar and stormed out.

"Oh....sugar", thought the F-4 team, "we've obviously gone too far this time".

But a few moments later, the Germans returned, stamping loudly as they marching abreast singing the original version in German - "If you buggers must sing, at least use ze right vords!" said their boss - and the evening continued happily with much beer and schnapps!
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