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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 3rd Dec 2016, 15:20
  #9801 (permalink)  
 
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The Good (?) Old Days.

pzu, thank you for the link in #9800 !

Geriaviator (speaking as the voice of Harry Hannah),
...In 2012, Vintage Wings of Canada honoured Harry Hannah by dedicating our Boeing Stearman in his name...
A suitable tribute to a tough old aircraft on which many of our wartime pilots started their training !
...all personnel were required to spend four hours a week belting ammunition. This was accomplished by having two nails on board and pushing a .303 bullet and casing through a clip to make a belt of 320 .303 shells which was measured by a gauge for accurate alignment. Pushing .303s through the clips, we developed very strong thumbs...
And bloody ones ! (extract from my earlier Post):

"But this paled into insignificance compared with the ammo. problem. You might suppose that machine-gun ammunition would come in belts ready for use. So it does, I suppose, for ground use when it is all one kind. But we had three "flavours" - ball, incendiary and tracer - and the "mix" was up to the user.

Our chosen sequence was ball-incendiary-ball-incendiary-tracer. This recipe had to be made up by hand - our hands - from single rounds. To complicate matters still further, we had two different calibres, .300 (US) rounds for the front guns and .303 (British) for the rear.

The stated reason for this was that the US .300 guns had been found so unreliable in service that they had to be replaced by UK .303s for our rear defence, where there was at least a possibility that they might have to be used. There was little chance of needing the front ones. Air combat in a VV was out of the question. Strafing was a possibility, I suppose, but the business of a dive bomber was to bomb and get away. The Hurricane and the Beaufighter were far better for ground attack work, in any case.

As to the reliability, it may not have been all the gun's fault. I suspect a lot of the .300 ammo would be WW1 stock; there would be a lot of duds in it; we could not cock the guns from the cockpit; so a dud round meant a stopped gun. In war films we've all seen cotton ammo belts jerking their way through the guns. There's no room for yards of empty belt in a wing gun bay.

Spring steel clips are the answer; when the guns are fired these go out with the spent cases. Each clip anchors one round to the next. You have to push the rounds into the clips by hand. It's a tight fit, the spring steel is sharp edged. Bloody fingers and thumbs were the order of the day (and we loaded 400 rounds per gun). Next you had to run the assembled belts through an aligning machine to ensure accuracy. One of our Indian (supposed) armourers put a .300 (fractionally longer than a .303) round into a .303 belt and forced it through the machine. (He bent the cartridge - luckily it didn't go off in his face!).
Curiously, a few months ago I saw on TV a clip of some RFC pilots in WW1. They sat in a companionable ring (like a sewing bee!), loading their Lewis drums with ammo. Nothing changes !"...
...Another recollection of the early Spits was that they were equipped with a hand pump to retract the undercarriage and on take-off, you could see the Spit bucking up and down as the pilot worked the pump...
"Ah yes - I remember it well (more rehashed old Post):

"...Some of our Mk.Is went so far back that they didn't even have an engine driven hydraulic pump. It wasn't just a matter of selecting wheels "up", you had to pump them up (and down) by hand.

Our tyro would have the stick in his left hand while he rowed away with his right on the pump handle. The Spit is highly sensitive in pitch. You can land one, or do a loop, with just the end of your little finger in the spade grip. So while our chap's right hand pumped, his left moved in sympathy. He couldn't help pushing and pulling a bit, a little goes a long way, and he'd porpoise away out of sight to the amusement of the bystanders. It wasn't the only aircraft of the day to rely on muscle power for the undercarriage. The early "Anson" was notorious for the 149 turns of a crank handle needed. Luckily, "Repetitive Strain Injury" hadn't yet been invented..."

Memories, memories...... Happy days ! (my regards to Harry when next you meet).

This is a wonderful story (how many more have gone to the grave with the teller ?)

Danny.

EDIT: For "Harry Hannah" above read "Rupert Parkhouse".

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Dec 2016 at 19:21. Reason: Misident
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 14:55
  #9802 (permalink)  
 
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS – Part 5

The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 – Part 5
The first post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.

My flight commander in those days was called Garth Slater, later a wing commander. He was a very nice chap and I think without his help I might not have made the course. Looking back to July 1939 I had also landed downwind in the Tutor, I opened up again and roared over the hangars about 50ft above them. I remember looking down and seeing Flt Lt Sweeney, the RAF 100yd champion, looking up at me in horror. I have a feeling that I tried two attempts before realising I was downwind, and feeling very disconsolate as I taxied in.

After being torn off a major strip by Dermot Boyle I went to the crew room with my tail between my legs and Garth Slater said there had been a train derailment near Grantham, would I take him there for a look at it? So we flew there in the Tutor and saw the derailed trucks, and I've always thought what a kind gesture that was. I wrote to him later when I was training on Fairey Battles at Benson and he replied telling me what had been going on since I left. Unfortunately he was killed flying from Biggin Hill in 1942.

One of the great joys was flying with one's fellow cadets in the back seat and getting permission to enter the low flying area south of Cranwell, that was really a great thrill. There was a chap called Cholmondley from Rhodesia who hit wires and I went to see him in Cranwell Hospital. There was talk that he might not get his commission, but he must have got back into the swim as after the war I saw his name on the Battle of Britain memorial.

At the beginning of December we started night flying with four paraffin glim lamps in line and two more across the end to form the Tee, with a Chance floodlight on the area where we were supposed to put the aircraft down. I found it very exciting flying in the dark without the standard panel of instruments and I went solo after about three hours' dual. I did three solo circuits and I remember feeling immensely relieved but quite proud afterwards.

I went back to the Mess and was getting into bed when I heard a tremendous thump and immediately thought that someone had gone in. It was Flight Cadet Warren Smith, with whom I had shared a room in my first term, and that was a bit of a shaker. Next day we went out to see the wreckage, rather ghoulishly, and I remember the terrible smell of burnt metal.

We got over it fairly quickly, there was no counselling and in fact this modern craze for counselling strikes me as an undermining of morale because when things like this happen you have to get over it yourself, you have to sort out your fears and just go on.
NEXT POST: Mixed feelings and guffaws as Rupert is posted onto Fairey Battles: "people thought the indifferent pilots were going onto Battles where if they had a crash they wouldn't kill too many as well as themselves".

Last edited by Geriaviator; 5th Dec 2016 at 16:50.
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Old 5th Dec 2016, 17:57
  #9803 (permalink)  
 
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Geriaviator (your #9804, quoting Harry Hannah)
....We got over it fairly quickly, there was no counselling and in fact this modern craze for counselling strikes me as an undermining of morale because when things like this happen you have to get over it yourself, you have to sort out your fears and just go on. ..
Few years back, I had a (cheap) lawnmower pinched from toolshed. Called the cops to get Crime Report No. for Insurance claim. They sent a policewoman to ask whether I wanted "counselling" !!

At Advanced School in the States seems they lost three from my Class 42C. No memory of them at all. No point in grief in war: Johnnie was here yesterday, he's gone today, he's forgotten tomorrow, c'ést la guerre.

Danny42C.

EDIT: For "Harry Hannah" above read "Rupert Parkhouse".

Last edited by Danny42C; 5th Dec 2016 at 19:19. Reason: Misident.
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Old 6th Dec 2016, 16:23
  #9804 (permalink)  
 
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS – Part 6

The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 – Part 6
The first post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.
I WENT home for Christmas 1939 with my wings, feeling very proud, returning in January to join the advanced training squadron for bombing and gunnery, which was very enjoyable, firing the front gun and dropping 20lb practice bombs on the range. We didn't do any night ops on the advanced squadron, which seems very strange.

We flew up to West Freugh [near Stranraer] for armament training camp, there were more pilots than aircraft so some were flown up in a Vickers Valentia from the wireless school at Cranwell. We landed beside a burned-out Heyford on the airfield, which we wondered about, but it had been pilot error and nobody was killed.

There we were snowed up and could not fly for weeks, while I contracted a frightful cold so when the rest of the term went back to Cranwell I was kept in sick quarters at West Freugh, where the flight sergeant nurse regaled us with stories of his exploits in various bordellos in Egypt, Hong Kong and Singapore which I found quite interesting.

Eventually I got back to Cranwell where the list of postings went up with much laughter and guffaws when we found who was posted onto Fairey Battles, and who had got onto fighters or heavy bombers. People thought the indifferent pilots were going onto Battles where if they had a crash they wouldn't kill too many as well as themselves.

In fact the chaps who came onto Battles with me included Johnny Rothwell, a very reasonable pilot who was killed later on a torpedo bomber, Shirley Shuttleworth, a member of the famous family who survived the campaign in France but was shot down in 1941 in a Blenheim, and J. M. Dyer whom I last heard of as a squadron commander at the RAF College.
NEXT POST: In a grim portent of events to come, Rupert has difficulty with instrument flying.
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Old 7th Dec 2016, 08:01
  #9805 (permalink)  
 
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Johnnie was here yesterday, he's gone today, he's forgotten tomorrow, c'ést la guerre.
My father-in-law* would have none of this 'counselling' - "Honour the dead and march on" was his dictum. As a family, we follow his example.


* He joined-up in 1915 at the age of 15yrs. Life Guards and Machine Gun Corps for the remainder of the war.
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Old 7th Dec 2016, 11:40
  #9806 (permalink)  
 
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Johnnie was here yesterday, he's gone today, he's forgotten tomorrow, c'ést la guerre.
Do not despair/For Johnny-head-in-air;
He sleeps as sound/As Johnny underground.
Fetch out no shroud/For Johnny-in-the-cloud;
And keep your tears/For him in after years.
Better by far/For Johnny-the-bright-star,
To keep your head,/And see his children fed.

This little poem was one of a series of poems written in 1941 by John Pudsey (1909 –1977) an RAF intelligence officer., and will be familiar to many readers from its use in the 1945 British film The Way to the Stars. The film title was derived from the RAF motto Per Ardua ad Astra (striving to the stars) which you may think is appropriate to the title of this thread.
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Old 7th Dec 2016, 14:13
  #9807 (permalink)  
 
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Geriaviator,

How right - and how apposite !

Danny.
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Old 7th Dec 2016, 14:35
  #9808 (permalink)  
 
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Geriaviator (pp Rupert Parkhouse) #9806,
...and dropping 20lb practice bombs on the range...
Never used (or even saw) one of those. Did they mark the spot with smoke (like the 11½ lb jobs) - or blow a small hole with H.E. ?
...where if they had a crash they wouldn't kill too many as well as themselves...
Well, it's something to take into consideration, when all's said and done - I've always thought: "If someone's going to kill me in an aircraft, I'd prefer it to be me !"

Danny.
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Old 8th Dec 2016, 16:34
  #9809 (permalink)  
 
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS – Part 7



The Link Trainer was a 1930s analogue flight simulator which moved in accordance with the cockpit controls. As it tilted to simulate movements, the aircraft progress was shown by the three-wheeled 'crab' which laid down a coloured track as it moved around the glass table overlaying a map. The instructor's repeater panel on the left duplicated the airspeed, altimeter, variometer (climb/descent) and radio compass (ADF) in the cockpit, and he and the pupil could talk via intercom.
This picture from Rupert's collection is captioned: Sgt Pilot Kenneth Perkin endeavouring to control Cadet Rupert Parkhouse on a Link Trainer at RAF Cranwell. It is believed that Cadet Parkhouse is about to go into a spin from which he never recovered his nerve. The caption is grimly prescient, for Rupert will blame his five years in captivity as the result of his “awful mistake” which led to loss of control in cloud.

The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 – Part 7. The first post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.

On March 8 I was commissioned, on the same day reporting for Fairey Battle training with 63 Sqn at RAF Benson. I was waiting for transport at the station when a chap in RAAF uniform offered me a lift. This was Alan Goole, who was the engineering officer at Benson and an extraordinarily pleasant Australian with a very easy manner, and we became firm friends.

We lived in the officers' quarters where I was roomed with Brian Moss, who had been on Cambridge UAS and was a member of the Moss family who were paint manufacturers in Chorley. All the brothers were aviators and two had designed a two-seat monoplane called the Mothcraft.

At 24 Brian was older than most of us and taught me a lot. I used to have difficulty on the Link Trainer blind flying simulator and he gave me a little lecture on the instruments. He said that what you must do is to regard the artificial horizon as your master instrument and other advice, following which I did an instrument cross-country under the blind flying hood with the flight commander, a Flt Lt James. I didn't get on terribly well with James because at our first interview he asked what kind of commission I had although he must have known I was ex-Cranwell and he was short service. I replied regular, which he took to mean that short service officers were irregular; of course I never meant that in any way. He took it rather badly and I was never his favourite pupil.

After about two hours under the hood on our triangular cross-country we were walking to the crew room when he said “You know, Parkhouse, those were the three best courses I have seen flown on instruments” which I was rather pleased about.

In those days there was no crewing up and we seemed to be crewed for our various sorties in a totally haphazard manner. Most of the navigators were bright young RAFVR sergeants, some considerably older than I was, and our little air gunners were extremely young chaps who were very proud of the 'flying bullet' on their arms.

We were told that the Battle force in France was going to adopt the low level role to attack industrial targets in the Ruhr. There was no mention of support for the Army. We had a sweet little Intelligence officer with RFC wings and Pip, Squeak and Wilfred medals from WW1 who would take us through pseudo-sorties on maps and photographs projected from a magic lantern. We would start off reading the map and then we were told we would see a river and we would be shown perhaps a river or bridge. Eventually we would be shown a power station and this is what we were supposed to attack.
NEXT POST: Gaining confidence, Rupert goes wandering in his Battle and starts adding new airfields to his log book. Then the boss finds out ...
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Old 9th Dec 2016, 13:54
  #9810 (permalink)  
 
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Geriaviator (p.p. Rupert Parkhouse, #9811),
...I used to have difficulty on the Link Trainer...
So did everybody else ! Its reactions to control movements are best described by Ogden Nash (?): "Tomato sauce, shake the bottle / None'll come - and then the lot'll !"
...We were told that the Battle force in France was going to adopt the low level role to attack industrial targets in the Ruhr...
What a hope ! What planet was our Intelligence living on ?
...officer with RFC wings and Pip, Squeak and Wilfred medals from WW1...
So had my Dad: No wings, but the 'Mons Star', and the War and Victory Medals. Named after three famous cartoon characters of the day.
... projected from a magic lantern...
That dates him ! - and me, I remember them well. I think they call them "Epidiascopes" now.

Danny.

Last edited by Danny42C; 9th Dec 2016 at 13:57. Reason: Box Quotation,
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Old 10th Dec 2016, 20:23
  #9811 (permalink)  
 
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS – Part 8



Fairey Battle of 63 Sqn on which Rupert completed his operational training at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. Whenever he saw this photograph he recalled that the Battle was always flown with canopy open because it was so difficult to open it when airborne. Within a few weeks this feature would come close to costing him his life.

The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 – Part 8. The first post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.

LOOKING back, it's incredible that we were not tasked to support the Army in any way, we were going to fly at 250ft with four 250lb bombs with 11-second delay and so we had a lot of low level training. In a Battle with its excellent view over the nose this was a great pleasure as most of our sorties were west of Exeter over the Devon countryside. We really had the most marvellous flying in March and April of 1940.

The weather was generally good but we encountered occasional poor conditions when neither my navigator nor myself knew where we were. I was glad because this gave me an excuse to land at a foreign airfield. I remember landing at St Eval and meeting Wing Cdr Revington, whom I knew from Cranwell. He gave me a warm welcome, I got a weather report from Benson and we took off again.

Once I was flying under low cloud and uncertain of position, so I went over the railway station at Holsworthy low enough to read the nameboard. On another occasion when we didn't know where we were, and rather naughtily hoping to get another airfield in my log book, I landed at Westland's airfield in Yeovil, which was regarded as particularly difficult because it was sloping with quite a dip down to the hangars. If you landed on the uphill part of the mound you were all right because you lost speed on the gradient, even so we slithered to a stop on the far downhill side and I got another name in my book.

I got the weather from Benson and took off for home, not knowing that the controller at Yeovil had phoned our base where my very irate flight commander had told him to 'hold the little so-and-so there, we will come and fetch him'. My commander and another instructor landed at Yeovil about an hour after I had taken off and I heard later that he hadn't made a very good approach and had skidded to a halt about 10ft from the hedge, which did not improve his temper even before he discovered that Parkhouse had taken off again.

I was sitting in the anteroom when two formidable officers took me outside and gave me an almighty strip. I think that ended my phase of landing out mainly to fill up the back page of my log book. Looking back it was a bit irresponsible but it was the most tremendous fun.
NEXT POST: Unwilling to part company with his friend Brian, 19-year-old Rupert pleads with his adjutant for a posting to France.
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Old 11th Dec 2016, 13:37
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Geriaviator (pp Rupert Parkhouse RIP),
...I went over the railway station at Holsworthy low enough to read the nameboard...
After Dunkirk, all the station names were taken down (to confuse invaders). It also confused the hapless lone stranger on a stopping train, who had to rely on the porters, who bawled out the name of each place as the train pulled in, to hear his destination called.
...Unwilling to part company with his friend Brian, 19-year-old Rupert pleads with his adjutant for a posting to France...
Be careful what you wish for - you might get it !
Danny.
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Old 11th Dec 2016, 16:56
  #9813 (permalink)  
 
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re the excellent image of a Fairey Battle in post 9813:
Can anyone please explain the strange layout of the crew positions? It has always puzzled me. I assume the middle man is the navigator and the rear man the gunner. But why is the nav so far from the pilot? And what fills the gap between them. Naive questions, I know, but please ....
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Old 11th Dec 2016, 18:21
  #9814 (permalink)  
 
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After Dunkirk, all the station names were taken down (to confuse invaders). It also confused the hapless lone stranger on a stopping train, who had to rely on the porters, who bawled out the name of each place as the train pulled in, to hear his destination called.
Reminds me of a radio sketch, porter calls for passengers for a departing train.

"Anymore from here to there for this is it."
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Old 11th Dec 2016, 19:51
  #9815 (permalink)  
 
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Pom Pax,

Or at the Booking Office window:

"Return, please"...."Where to ?"...."Back here, of course !"
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Old 12th Dec 2016, 09:12
  #9816 (permalink)  
 
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BernieC
This is all I could find (from Wiki)
"The Battle was furnished with a single cockpit to accommodate a crew of three, these typically being a pilot, observer/navigator and radio operator/air gunner.[14] The pilot and gunner were seated in a tandem arrangement in the cockpit, the pilot being located in the forwards position while the gunner was in the rear position where he could use the fixed .303 Browning machine gun; provisions for an alternative Vickers K machine gun were also present. The observers position, who served as the bomb aimer, was situated directly beneath the pilot's seat; sighting was performed in the prone position through a sliding panel in the floor of the fuselage using the Mk. VII Course Setting Bomb Sight.[14] Complete with a continuous glazed canopy, the cockpit of the Battle had several similarities to that of a large fighter rather than a bomber."

I found a cut away drawing but it onlt shows a 2 man crew and is not detailed enough for me to read the notations.
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Old 12th Dec 2016, 11:18
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seafury45 (#9818),

I, too, had often wondered about the overlong glasshouse on the "Battle". Now I know - the nav had to have the room to stretch out on the floor !
... the gunner... could use the fixed .303 Browning machine gun...
"Fixed" ? How on earth could he aim it ? The Vickers K gun on a flexible mounting much bettter idea.

Danny42C.
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Old 12th Dec 2016, 11:42
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS – Part 9

The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 – Part 9. The first post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.

THE NEXT big day was May 10 when the Blitzkrieg began. We were reinforcement crews for the Advanced Air Striking Force and on May 11 a list of postings to fly to France the following day appeared on the Mess notice board. My name was not on the list but my great friend Brian Moss was, so I went to the adjutant and said I wanted to go with him. He said I wasn't supposed to go yet because I was 19 and a half and one of the youngest on the list, but if I really wanted to go he would put me on. [It is not known whether Rupert was aware of the casualties, but the adjutant certainly was. On May 10 12 Sqn had despatched four Battles, only one came back; on May 12 they sent six Battles, one came back with tech trouble, the others were lost; on May 14 they sent six Battles, five were lost – Ed.]

So next day, May 12, we went by lorry from Benson to Hendon where we boarded an Imperial Airways four-engined airliner, crossed the Channel on a beautiful sunny day, and landed at Colombier in France where we were met by a very excited French officer who said we were fortunate not to have arrived 10 minutes previously when they had a visit from two Me110s. Without doubt we would have been shot down had we arrived sooner.

From Colombier we went by train to Nantes which was the base of 98 Sqn, the pool squadron where we did more cross-country training. We had bombing and gunnery practice, doing dive-bombing from 8000ft down to 3000ft which indicated a change in tactics. We weren't told about this change. Later my navigator on 12 Sqn told me what a shaker it was when on May 14 he had entered the crew room and of the 22 navigators and gunners who had come out to France, only he and another man remained.

The first batch of replacement aircrew went out about May 20 to make good the very heavy losses of the AASF during the first three days of blitzkrieg. The reason for the delay was that communications with the retreating squadrons had been lost, while the railways were in such chaos that our crews returned to Nantes after a few days. I remember Johnny Rothwell telling me what a frightening experience it had been, they had left the train and were lying on the side of an embankment as the bombs burst nearby. He said 'It really scared the s—t out of me, Rupert, and I'm just longing to return it in kind.'

On June 5 Brian Moss was again on a list of replacements and once again I asked the adjutant if I could go with him to 12 Sqn, which had carried out that very gallant raid on the Maastricht bridges. He said I was still too young to go but he reluctantly agreed, he gave me a little Serviceman's Bible, he shook my hand, and he wished me good luck.

We left Nantes by train on June 5 and arrived at Tours where we hung about in the park waiting for our transport to come the 26 miles from Souge. I remember seeing a beautiful French girl on a seat and thinking it would be wonderful if we could stay for another 48 hours.
NEXT POST: Rupert takes his first flight in a bombed-up Battle, to the great discomfiture of the flight sgt rigger who trustingly goes with him.
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Old 12th Dec 2016, 12:01
  #9819 (permalink)  
 
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Danny42C at #9819

I have looked at photos of various scale model Battles. None show the sliding panel on the underside and I have not found photos of this part of real aircraft.

It must have been immediately aft of the radiator/oil cooler fairing I think.
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Old 12th Dec 2016, 12:27
  #9820 (permalink)  
 
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seafury45,

Might've been a perspex panel (like a Stuka) or even an open one (like a Vengeance), in each case you (pilot) would have to sight through it from your seated postion. Very inaccurate - and very draughty, too, with our bomb doors open !

Danny.

EDIT: Wiki says:
  • "4× 250 lb (110 kg) bombs internally", so must've been a bomb-bay, Sliding (?) panel would've been on roof of bay, not visible with bomb doors shut.

Last edited by Danny42C; 12th Dec 2016 at 12:41. Reason: Addn,
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