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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 26th Dec 2016, 15:06
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Batmen Ancient and Modern.

"Oh, my Batman awoke me from my bed -
I'd had a good night and I'd got a thick head,
So I said to myself, to myself I said -
'You haven't got a hope in the Mor-ning !"

(RFC lyric)
 
Old 26th Dec 2016, 15:39
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My first batman had an artificial arm, with a range of attachments for different aspects of his duties. It was amazing watching Les pressing trousers, then changing the attachment to make the beds.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 10:52
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS Part 18



The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 Part 18. First post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.

THE NEW block at Barth was completed about March 1941 and I moved there with Alistair Panton, John Bushell who eventually became our ambassador to Vietnam, and Robin Beaufair who was one of the strongest men I ever met. He and Panton had been together at Bedford School and as soon as we went to that block, which was about 20ft from the wire, we started digging tunnels. I think Wally Floody, the Canadian mining engineer and Spitfire pilot who engineered the three famous tunnels from Stalag Luft III in 1943, had joined us and was directing digging operations by three teams in three tunnels.

We had a very elementary trapdoor over the gap of about one foot between the hut floor and the ground level. It was bitterly cold, but we used to go down naked except for a loincloth and as well as digging I was in charge of the fat lamps by which we were able to see. These consisted of a little Marmite tin filled with fat and a wick, the outside being a glass bottle with the top and bottom cut off, topped by a wooden top and a handle. We used to dig in 30 to 45 minute stints, I can't remember the tools but I think we used knives and we put the spoil into the aluminium bowls which we used to wash in. Eventually the tunnel progressed beyond the wire and about May it was ready to break.

I was drawn number 7 to go out with a chap called Newman. We had been saving up food for the journey and we had rudimentary maps copied from various atlases. It was a great night, the tunnel broke and I think the first out was Sqn Ldr Lockett who had commanded 226 Battle squadron. The fourth man was discovered and shots rang out. Four got away I think, five and six came back and the first thing I knew was when ammunition boots hit my head and we all did a smart retreat along the tunnel calling 'Back-back-back' and covered it up. Then we ate all the food we had saved, we had a grand meal for 20 minutes until the Germans arrived and ordered us out of the block so they could search it.

I don't think there were any successful tunnels from that block and the four were all recaptured. The Germans found sand on my clothing and I was given 10 days' solitary confinement, which I looked upon as an intense relief. One was quiet, one could read and one's comrades sent over special cottage pies and things to eat.

There's an interesting corollary in this one which shows the differences in morale and determination between various people. I was quite happy really to stay there, I didn't think of escaping from the cooler because I considered it escape-proof. The odd thing is that the next chap in the cooler was Flt Lt Harry Burton who had also been caught with sand, and over the next 10 days he unscrewed the bars, scooped his way under the wire, made his way to the harbour, boarded a Swedish boat and got home, to be awarded the DSO. I can't help feeling that I was a bit wet, but there you are, one has to live with it, but he was older and more experienced than I was.

NEXT POST: Rupert is sent to Stalag Luft III, where grim experiences and prison life boil over when the Germans murder 50 RAF officers following the Great Escape.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 12:21
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MPN11 (#9903),

Not a patch on a good Indian "bearer", though ! (24/7 service). One chap could wet-shave his Sanib without waking him up.

Thik hai, Sahib !

Danny.
 
Old 27th Dec 2016, 12:26
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Geriaviator (pp Rupert Parkhouse #9903),

At Shawbury, 1964, one of my fellow instructors on the ATC School was a Bill Panton. He was a perfect double for Sean Connery (the first "Bond"). All the WRAF on the Station lusted after him. We said that the correct answer to the final examination question: "Define a 'Danger Area' was - "Bill Panton's bedspace !"

Rupert mentions one such at Barth. It is an uncommon name. The dates would fit. Could it be the same man ? (Don't worry about the name, we all answered to whatever name we were called in the RAF (I am not 'Daniel').

We had several ex-POWs in the postwar ATC world. One had got as far as Sweden, but stopped where he was (in fairly comfortable internment) till the war's end. He may have missed out on a DSO, but he spent his time (as was crudely said): "stabbing Swedish women".

That's quite enough of that !

Danny.
 
Old 27th Dec 2016, 14:18
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Sorry Danny, this Panton was definitely an Alistair who had been shot down like all the attacking Battles on the Maastricht bridges raid. Rupert says in a future post:
I wanted to get to Alistair Panton and a lot of other POWs who were now flying Mosquitos at Benson.
As you will guess by now, things did not work out for Rupert when he gets to Benson, and as usual he does not spare himself ...

By the way, I have tried listening to Rupert's IWM recordings on several PCs and iPads and they work fine although sometimes the tape is slow to download. Anyone having difficulty, check that speaker/headphone audio is turned on [Control panel -- sound] as sometimes Windows 7 turns speakers off. If anyone wants the link to the original recording:
Parkhouse, Rupert Charles Langridge (Oral history) (15476)
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 17:04
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Geriaviator:

I think your Alistair Panton is F/O A D Panton DFC of 53 Squadron which was based at Poix in 1940 flying Blenheim Mk.IVs. He was first shot down on 11 May 1940 (from my book about 53 Squadron).

"P/O Panton DFC and crew set off on their second survey flight of the day in L9459/B at 1455. They were shot down by 5 Bf109s in Belgium. All three were wounded, however P/O Panton and Sgt J Christie (obs) were able to evade capture and escaped back to England. The gunner, AC2 R W Bence, was captured in hospital and was sadly to lose a leg. He was taken to Stalag XII but was repatriated later in the war".

"Six aircraft took off (from Detling) at 2135 on 14 July 1940 to bomb oil storage tanks near Ghent. F/O Panton in N3551/E got caught in the searchlights and was shot down by flak. He and his observer, Sgt A E Farrow, were captured. Sgt L H Stride, wop/ag, was killed. (Panton ended up eventually in Stalag Luft III). After his release from Stalag Luft III at the end of the war, F/O Panton went on to become Air Commodore Panton CB OBE DFC and was to put his new found skills to good use when he commanded the RAF Police!".

P/O S G L Pepys was also 53 Squadron. Shot down in Blenheim R3691 on 23 May 1940 and also ended up in Stalag Luft III.

Air Commodore Panton sadly died about 10 years ago. I hope that helps.
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Old 27th Dec 2016, 19:21
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Air Commodore Panton wrote a book, which was discovered posthumously by his granddaughter, who put it together for publication. The story of the discovery is here...

Victoria shares story of grandfather?s war - News - Diss Mercury

The book is available from the usual sources.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 10:18
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All POWs were interviewed when they eventually got back to UK at the end of the war. I have in front of me the statement made by Alistair Panton on 18th September 1945. I thought some of you out there might find it of interest.

SECRET STATEMENT BY

33331 F/Lt. Alistair Dyson PANTON, D.F.C., 53 Squadron, Army Co-op Cmd.
Attached Coastal Command, R.A.F.

Captured: Nr. Ghent, 15 July 40. Liberated: LUCKENWALDE 22 Apr. 45.
Date of Birth: 2 Nov. 16. Peacetime profession: R.A.F.
R.A.F. Service: Since Jan. 36. Private address: xxxxxxxxx, Bedford.

1. Capture.
We took off from DETLING in a Blenheim aircraft at 21.30 hours on 14 Jul. 40 to bomb oil storage tanks in the SCHELDT CANAL. On the return journey the aircraft was hit by flak and I crash-landed in a clearing among woods.
The aircraft was burning so we burnt our parachutes in the fire, and started to walk through the woods towards the coast. My observer and I walked all that night but, both of us being injured, we sat down by the side of a road in the early hours of the morning, and were picked up by Luftwaffe personnel.
I was taken to a Military Hospital in BRUSSELS, where I stayed for about a fortnight and was then taken to MALINES. There I was put in a barrack which was being used as a Hospital. I remained there for most of August. I was then sent by truck with a party of French soldiers to a place near AACHEN, where I was placed in a shed. I escaped during the night.
I was recaptured the following day and after spending that night in a cell I was taken by train to DORTMUND and HAEMER, where I was kept in solitary confinement for about a month. At that time I was taken by train to DULAG LUFT (OBERURSEL), where I arrived on 15 Oct.
After spending one night in a cell, I was interrogated and transferred to the Main Camp.
2. CAMP IN WHICH IMPRISONED
DULAG LUFT (OBERURSEL) 15 Oct - Dec.40
STALAG LUFT I (BARTH) Dec.40 - March 42
STALAG LUFT III (SAGAN - East Compound) March - Sept.42
OFLAG XXIB (SCHUBIN) Sept.42 - Apr.43
STALAG LUFT III (SAGAN - East Compound) Apr.43 - 27 Jan.45
STALAG IIIA (LUCKENWALDE) 2 Feb. - 22 Apr.45

More to come:
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 10:34
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JW
I was interested to read the PoW statement you quote. Is there a now accessible source where these secret statements might be found? My father was captured in Crete and spent most of his time in Stalag Luft III, and I was unaware that all PoWs made such recorded statements on their return. I'd certainly be glad to read his and to post here.

A Happ(ier) New Year to you and to all PPRuNers.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 10:52
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One of the most memorable events of my life was to be organising the wake at our Yacht Club of the late Lt Cdr Alastair Easton, who had been incarcerated in Stalag Luft III, with in the "congregation" three other former inmates. I also had a member who was a widow of one of the 50 officers murdered. Hair standing up on the back of your neck stuff
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 10:53
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Alistair Panton (Part 2)

3. ATTEMPTED ESCAPE.
About the end of August 40, I crawled out of the hut in which I had been placed for the night with French POWs near AACHEN. I walked Southwest for about 12 hours, when I was stopped by a policeman. I was handed over to German Army personnel and placed in a cell until the following day, when I was taken to HAEMER via DORTMUND.
4. ESCAPE ACTIVITIES.
At STALAG LUFT I (BARTH) from Dec.40 until March 42, I assisted in digging about fifteen tunnels, one of which was successful. During Aug. 41 this tunnel was used and S/Ldr. McCOLM, S/Ldr. LOCKETT and F/Lt. NEWMAN escaped. I was to have escaped from this tunnel, but the third man was seen getting out and the rest of us had to give up.
At STALAG LUFT III (SAGAN), from March to September 42 I was engaged on tunnels all the time, but none were successful.
I assisted in the escape of F/Lt. LAMOND, F/Lt. BEST and F/Lt. GOLDFINCH, during July 42, when they dug themselves out of a "molehill". We had dug a small tunnel first for them to put the earth in, when they dug their way out.
During August 1942 I tried to get out of the camp in a laundry basket but was caught at the gate. I was wearing a white coat, R.A.F. trousers and jackboots, and had maps, compasses, identity papers, money and food with me. I served 21 days in cells for this attempt.
At OFLAG XXIB (SCHUBIN) I worked on four tunnels between Setember 42 and March 43, but none of these were successful. When the big tunnel break was made about 10 March 43, I hid with S/Ldr. GERICKE, Lt. RUFFEL S.A.A.F., F/Lt. LUSH R.C.A.F., F/Lt. LUMSDEN, F/Lt. R EDGE, F/Lt. MacKAY and F/Lt. D.W. FOSTER, in order to escape when the Camp was emptied, as we knew a move was pending. We were caught the day before the move was to take place and served about 10 days in the cells.
At STALAG LUFT III (SAGAN) I assisted in digging two or three more tunnels all of which were discovered before completion. W/Cdr. KAYLL was in charge of these.
During December 43, Lt. RUFFELL, F/Lt. CRAWLEY, Lt. LUBBOCK R.N., and I had a plan to cause diversion in one of the blocks and we were to hide down by the gate, so that when the Germans came in to see what was the matter, we would march out in the confusion, two dressed as guards and two intended to be POWs caught in a tunnel. This failed as the Germans only sent in three or four soldiers instead of a truckload, as expected.
5. LIBERATION
I was liberated at LUCKENWALDE on 22 April 1945 by the Russian Army. I remained there for about five weeks and was then sent by truck to HALLE. I was flown from there to BRUSSELS and from BRUSSELS to the U.K. 0n 26th May.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 14:04
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Buster 11:

You need to start in The National Archives (used to be the Public Records Office) at Kew. Some of their records can now be downloaded so you might not even have to go there. I last used the service a couple of years ago when I was researching the demise of my grandfather at the Battle of Aubers Ridge in 1915. I was able to download all of the relevant War Diaries at a cost of something like 3.10 per download.

So, to get you started you need to go to:

[url]www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

Select the National Archives 'Discovery' option.

To get you moving in the right direction, type WO 344 into the search bar.

That should take you to the section which holds the General Questionnaires For British/American Ex-Prisoners of War.

You might find some further information in the WO 208 section.

Secret Statements etc can be found in AIR40/1533
Commendations in AIR40/1491
Special Notations in Personal Records in AIR40/268

Happy Hunting.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 14:29
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Very many thanks for what look like some pretty useful steers, even for the barely computerate. I'll get stuck in and look forward to some interesting discoveries.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 15:14
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I am constantly amazed by the information that emerges from this thread. Thanks to JW411 we now know that Alistair Panton was a Blenheim pilot who also spent most of the war in captivity after a remarkable if brief career. Yet like his fellow POW Rupert he also considered his flying career as a failure, as his granddaughter says in her excellent book Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer:
... shot down a fourth time, captured and made a prisoner of war, Panton describes Six Weeks of Blenheim Summer as a story of failure. Whilst he survived, so many of his friends and comrades did not, and this grief never left him.
It's an excellent book and tribute to those who gave so much for their country, and will be enjoyed by anyone who follows this thread.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 16:33
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I didn't get to 53 Squadron until 1972 and I was immediately taken by the squadron spirit. Even in those days we had loads of WWII survivors coming to our reunions and could even manage to muster a few WWI survivors. I was given the job of squadron historian and I resolved to write it all down. It took me over 20 years to do it and, in the process, I met and made some amazing friends. It would be fair to say that several of them who had survived times when the attrition rate was pretty high, expressed something akin to guilt at having survived when so many of their friends had died.

Going back to the wonderful photographs taken at Stalag Luft I that Geriaviator kindly posted, perhaps an explanation of Captain S Pepys (The Essex Regiment) might be in order?

53 Squadron was a Corps squadron flying Be2s/RE8s in WWI. When the squadron re-formed at Farnborough in 1937 equipped with Hawker Hectors it was as an Army Cooperation squadron within 22 Group. Unusually, the Commanding Officer was an Army chap by the name of Major A P C "Pat" Hannay MC (Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders). I think he was the first Army officer to command an RAF squadron. It would be fair to say that Pat Hannay was one of the finest gentlemen that I ever did meet and his after dinner speeches were quite wonderful.

O.C. "B" Flight was Lt E D Joyce (Royal Artillery) and O.C. "C" Flight was Capt K J McIntyre (Royal Tank Corps). Most of the squadron pilots were from the RAF (like Alistair Panton - who joined the squadron in 1938) but the Army were well represented; Ian Bartlett was Durham Light Infantry and Brian Daly was a Lancashire Fusilier.

53 Sqn was the very first squadron to be equipped with the Blenheim IV and they went immediately to France when war was declared, finally settling into Poix de Picardie alongside 59 Squadron (also Blenheims). They were not part of the AASF (Advanced Air Striking Force) but were part of the Air Component of the British Army Field Force.

The name of the game was to carry out reconnaissance flights over Germany in daylight, a highly risky occupation, which soon attracted a lot of casualties. The plan was changed so that the aircraft did not go straight back to Poix (if they survived the outbound leg they would be unlikely to survive going back the same way) but went across the North Sea to a UK airfield.

Alistair Panton's DFC was awarded on 06.03.40 and I think it was for such a flight that he flew on 08.10.39 in Blenheim L4847/D. He encountered heavy flak and when he was photographing a railway line near Bremen he saw nine Bf109s taking off from Stuhr aerodrome with him as the apparent target. He stuffed the nose down and flew out to sea at 10 feet eventually landing safely at Mildenhall.

Which takes me back to Capt Pepys. Halfway through 1940 an edict was issued that the Army officers could either carry on flying as normal but they would have to join the RAF or else return to Regimental Duties. Most of them stayed flying which explains why we still had a Capt S Pepys (The Essex Regiment) when he was also P/O S G L Pepys RAF!
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 16:49
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Thanks JW411, I had wondered how Rupert had met an Army captain -- almost fatally. Rupert's story of how he almost obliterated Captain Samuel Pepys of the Essex Regiment, a direct descendant of the great diarist, is in #9802 on page 491.
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Old 28th Dec 2016, 17:04
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For those of us who had a "soft" war (we said that the greatest danger we were in was of spraining an ankle when jumping down after a sortie !), it ia humbling to read of the courage and the powers of endurance shown by Rupert and his friends during the long years of captivity. They never gave up heart.

I salute them.

Danny.
 
Old 29th Dec 2016, 09:46
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THE PARKHOUSE MEMOIRS Part 19

The memoirs of Sqn Ldr Rupert Parkhouse, recorded in 1995 Part 19. First post in this series is #9775 on page 489 of this thread.
IN MARCH 1942 I was transferred to the new Stalag Luft III at Sagan. We started digging tunnels again of course and in September we were moved to a place called Schubin where we were under the German army. One or two tunnels were made but a couple of frightful incidents took place.

I remember one Battle pilot with whom I was quite friendly went quite round the bend and was shot in the stomach by a guard when he started to climb the wire. He fell down between the wire and the tripwire and we were desperate to go and get him but the German outside was shouting that he would shoot if we went beyond the tripwire. They allowed the doctor to attend to him but up to 200 prisoners had gathered in the most fearful mood and the Germans had to push us back with their machine pistols. It was a tense situation.

I was in a room with Tony Russell, a South African who was a very keen escaper who produced a plan for cutting through the wire. We were going to follow after him but one night I had a terrible nightmare that I was caught in the wire and was screaming, alerting the guards and causing Tony to be shot. After that I decided not to go and I think I became slightly tainted among my companions who were keen to escape and while I carried out sentry duties I was never directly asked to take part in tunnelling operations. In retrospect I feel ashamed of that, it shows I was developing into a very bad mental state.

We returned from Schubin in May 1943 and I stayed at Stalag Luft III for the rest of the war. When I got to Sagan I was recruited to the Cody [escape] organisation and after long conversations with other Regular officers we decided that our careers would be very much blighted, so about September 1943 I decided to leave the RAF at the end of the war and go to university. I started to study history, German and other subjects, I used to imagine myself at university and I lived for a time in a dream world.

I was jolted out of that in March 1944 when the 50 officers were shot and escaping activity ceased. We were in the east compound at that time and the escapers were in the north, so we were really on the side. I think we had one tunnel going very well but it was stopped after the news of the shootings was received.

The winter of 1944 became a bit grim because with the deteriorating communications in the Reich the parcels supply wasn't exactly drying up but we certainly had less food. I do remember that at Christmas 1944 various brands of hooch were made by fermenting tinned raisins and things from Canadian parcels. We mixed this almost pure alcohol with orange drinks for a three-day bender, we were all as drunk as lords.
NEXT POST: The prisoners march west through the snow towards liberation by the advancing Russians, and return home after their years of captivity. Then Rupert asks to return to flying despite his fears.
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Old 29th Dec 2016, 14:34
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Geriaviator (pp Rupert Parkhouse #9920),

Rupert really does too much self-introspection. His first and best duty to his country is to stay alive (a dead hero is no use to anyone). And, frankly, some of these escape schemes seem hare-brained in the extreme. But, then again, he was there, and I wasn't.

I applaud his decision:
...I started to study history, German and other subjects...
With the time he'd spent in POW camp, and with cigarettes as a sweetener to get the co-operation of the 'goons', he should have been able to get a good working grasp of colloquial German by now. And (from a position of complete ignorance), I should have thought that getting out of camp was the easy bit. What follows next ?

The "Captain of Kopernick" hoax shows what can be done with a German officer's uniform and a knowledge of the language. My limited observation of the German temperament (during 2 years there 50+ years ago) leads me to think that not that much has changed.

Any chance of asking Rupert about this ?

Danny.
 

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