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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 2009, 16:03
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Just read "the book", or one of them. Friends here in France have just lent me a self-published modest little book of 132 pages, written in a most modest and laconic style, by a relative of theirs called James Markham, not a bomber or fighter pilot but Coastal Command, much less well reorded. The book tells the story of his selection and training, first posting to Iceland and so-on. He flew Hudsons, Mitchells (as an instructor) and Liberators, and gained an immediate DFC for the confirmed sinking of a U-boat. Sadly James died days after copies of his his book were delivered, and before he had time to sign them.

Per Ardua

RIP
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Old 29th Jul 2009, 07:16
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Stores...AT6s

Hi Cliff,

Thanks for the snippet about the Stores process - amazing how the military can on occasion make good use of precedent - I read once that the German army of WWI could load a train quicker than any other army because they had taken the trouble to watch how Barnum and Bailey's circus had done it on a pre-war trip to Germany.

If I were rich I would buy an AT6 / Harvard as I have been lucky enough to have a couple of trips. One was in Canada where I was treated to an aeros session. The second was at Biggin when some ex-Portuguese machines passed through. That one was memorable as I had front seat and had mugged up the whole of the pilot's notes for the Harvard 2B. So, when I found that it was an export model, and the starter PEDAL was hidden behind the control column, and the instruments were marked up in KiloNapoleons per cubic Bismarck it was a bit of a shock. Nice flight though, it handled like a big Chipmunk.

Yes, lottery win please...

Dave
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Old 29th Jul 2009, 10:38
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As former GD/P turned blunt, one of my most memorable flights was also an hour in a Harvard, at Boscombe Down when I was on the Command Acounts (ducks for supersonic brickbats) Team in the late 80s. My wife still tells people that I got back to Brampton still wearing the silliest grin she had ever seen. Said I had it again on Saturday, after gliding at Fontenay-le-Comte.
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Old 29th Jul 2009, 10:54
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Goosequill & AT6

Try flying Bostons ordered by the French to their specifications but delivered to the RAF (Swanton Morley 226 Sqdn.1942) after the French surrender. The aircraft itself was one of the heaviest on the controls that I ever flew. Each member of the three man crew was completely , physically , isolated from the others , Navigator, Nose cone, Pilot, Cockpit, M/U Gunner, turret. and , for a VERY short time, the throttles (Two) worked the opposite way to normal . i.e. Fully Closed...T/O. Fully Open...Idle. Use your imagination to visualise the type of accident(s) this produced !
I, also flew the AT6 for over 60 hours when training at Advanced Training, Turner Field , Albany. GA. in 1941 Jan.1942. It was the end of the training that gave us 200 hours of the best available training in the world, at that time. We, most of us, found the Harvard a good but demanding plane. You had to keep your wits about you all the time especially on the landing run as "Ground Loops" were common with the semi-steerable tailwheel that was fitted. It was a good trainer because of the slightly unforgiving characteristics of the aerobatics which had to be performed correctly to avoid unpleasant but still recoverable situations.
Regle.
WanderOO. You should know , living in France, what that "silly grin" signifies. It is worn by most Pilots after completing a satisfactory flight, sometimes inwardly if that is possible. It is sheer "Joie de Vivre ".

Last edited by regle; 29th Jul 2009 at 11:08.
 
Old 29th Jul 2009, 13:34
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I never realised that some aircraft designer was perverse enough to provide throttles working in the inverse sense!! Back in 1978, when I bought a Freeman 22 cabin cruiser, I found that the throttle on that was also operating backwards...it was the first modification I made, as I knew that closing the throttle on approaching a lock would have lead to a re-enactment of the St.Nazaire raid! Forward to go faster..was ever the way.
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Old 29th Jul 2009, 13:53
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I believe that I have read that the standard French aircraft spec, indiginous or bought abroad, was for throttles opening on moving them rearwards. I asume that they don't do the same with modern aircraft!
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Old 29th Jul 2009, 14:58
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Instinctive controls.

Think I have mentioned it before, but we were told standard spec wherever possible was , controls should be 'instinctive' and all services 'fail safe'. Fail safe seems a bit of misnomer, but meant items such as superchargers should switch to M gear ready for landing, on loss of electro/pnuematic supply.
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Old 29th Jul 2009, 16:17
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Fail safe!

Cliff, tell that to Douglas when they designed the DC10.......I flew it for four years and survived ! Regle
 
Old 30th Jul 2009, 07:36
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The "export model" AT6

Hi Reg,

Reverse-working throttles is just plain weird, but I do remember a Biggles book in which our hero steals a German machine and realises the throttle works in the reverse sense.

My own landing in the Harvard was a trifle bumpy. I was fooled by that lovely view over that yard-wide engine cover when I was nose down with flaps and undercarriage deployed. Then I rounded out - and the county of Kent disappeared behind this wall of North American aluminum. I was on the short runway, the one with the dip in the middle, which did not help.

The export model had a slight refinement to the steerable tailwheel. When you wanted to make a tight turn you pushed the control column fully forward and the tailwheel then unlocked. I understand the Mustang has the same arrangement. I also read somewhere that the Mustang is actually easier to fly than the Harvard. Hmmm...

Cheers,

Dave
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Old 30th Jul 2009, 18:00
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Corby

It may be of interest to some of you that the recent media interest in the sad result of the destruction of the Steel Works at Corby near Northampton would have an R.A.F connection .
From early 1942 onwards because of the reasonable proximity of these outstanding landmarks, the Corby Steel Works, to the majority of the light bomber Squadrons of 2 Group, Bomber Command stations they were extensively used as target practice for the Blenheims , Bostons, Venturas and the first two Mosquito Sqdns. I am sure that many of the workers cursed us and dived for cover when we swept over them at nought feet. They were the perfect facsimile for the raid on the Phillips Factory at Eindhoven in Holland. late 1942. They were also called by all of us "The 2 Group Bombing Range ". Thought it might be of current interest. REgle
 
Old 30th Jul 2009, 18:21
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Thought it might be of current interest. REgle

A very interesting footnote indeed to a very sad affair.

Salaams and delighted to see you on ITV.

Jack

PS Reg - Looking at your signature in your last post, as copied above, perhaps you should reassure us, and the man himself, that you are not metamorphing into BEagle!
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Old 30th Jul 2009, 21:26
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REgle

A mere slip of the hift, oops, shi....wait for it...ft key. Regle.
 
Old 31st Jul 2009, 10:39
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Throttles

Cliff, tell that to Douglas when they designed the DC10.......I flew it for four years and survived ! Regle
Reversed throttle ?

It could not happen today. Up with it, we would not put . Our M.E.P.S would make laws and regulations to stop such serious things happening.
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Old 31st Jul 2009, 11:28
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Goosequill, you're right about the tail wheel steering on the Mustang and (I understand, only some) Havards and your description of unlocking it is accurate. To re-lock it, the control column was held full back and the rudders jiggled until you felt the pin slip back into the cam to make the tailwheel steerable again.

The Winjeel, (Australian equivalent of the Piston Provost) borrowed the system from the Australian-produced Mustang, and clever dick student pilots quickly learned that a very good 'last manoeuvre' after a session of aerobatics was a practice stall, where you, while entering said stall, wiggled the rudders manfully while holding the control column as far back into your stomach as possible to (hopefully) re-lock the tailwheel steering, in case your negative 'G' manoeuvres had unlocked it.

Returning to the circuit, if crosswinds were present, with the tailwheel unlocked could sometimes result in a sweeping and rather too rapid view of the whole perimeter of the Base, a.k.a. as groundloop.

The Wirraway, (the Australian version of the Havard) was very prone to groundlooping, and in the days when it was the RAAF's primary trainer, the Framies kept a supply of wing tips at the back of the hangar to replace those bent and buggered by student pilots.

There was one incident in particular in a Wirraway that some might enjoy reading. It’s a true story.
FIRST SOLO

Until the late 1950’s, the mainstay of the RAAF’s training squadrons was the Wirraway, the very aircraft the Pacific War’s first Kamikazes - Australians - faced the Japanese Zeros in 1942. Yes, it was a trainer, the Australian version of the venerable North American Havard, or AT6, but in 1942, it was all we had to pit against the Zero, probably the best fighter in the world at that stage of the war.

Readers who doubt that Australia fielded suicide pilots three years before the Japanese in World War Two might not be aware that at Rabaul in New Britain in early 1942, just before he stepped into his Wirraway to do battle with the advancing and seemingly unstoppable Japanese Grand Fleet and its hundreds of Zeros, the Commanding Officer of the single - and under strength - RAAF Squadron based there sent a signal to RAAF Headquarters in Melbourne: “Morituri te salutant, Caesar.” – We who are about to die salute thee, Caesar - the salute of the gladiators in the arenas of ancient Rome.

They did, to a man.

Most trainees, in their teens or early twenties, got to love the Wirraway, but few would disagree that it was a bit like taking your initial driving lessons in a Mack truck - just a little daunting at first.

The Wirraway’s major vice was its tendency to ground loop - to spin around itself in ever decreasing circles during landing, a bit like a dog chasing its tail, sometimes even digging a wingtip into the ground. This tendency was made worse in any hint of a cross wind - and as any flying instructor will tell you, if there isn’t a crosswind, the average student pilot will create one for himself.

Our hero in this incident went on to become a highly regarded senior Hercules captain. But on this day he was a rather callow trainee pilot - all ears, baggy flying suit and oversize boots, and he was approaching that most memorable moment for any trainee pilot - his first solo.

A young aviator’s first hero is the Flying Instructor, particularly his instructor. Now we’d all like to think - (particularly we old instructors) - that all instructors are John Wayne or Tom Cruise clones. But in reality, instructors come in all shapes and sizes - and to say that our hero’s instructor was a little overweight would be an understatement.

For a trainee’s first solo, the instructor first flies a couple of circuits with him. If he is happy with what he sees, he tells the student to taxi back to the threshold of the active runway. That taxi back to the threshold the first time as ‘Sir’ unstraps himself, perhaps passing on some last gem of advice, (“Now don’t bloody kill yourself, Bloggs, I couldn’t handle the paperwork!”), is the most exhilarating to date of his flying career. Moments later it is surpassed as he gets airborne with that empty back seat, and without the drone of Sir’s voice in the headset.

But Sir is not far away, because for those first few solo trips, he watches closely, and sometimes a little nervously, from ‘the Pie Cart’, a multi-coloured, radio-equipped trailer parked right beside the runway threshold. From there, each instructor can give help or advice to his particular student should it be required.

On the day in question, our hero finally demonstrated to Sir that he could consistently land the aircraft more or less safely, and Sir gave that fateful order, “Make it a full stop and take me to the Pie Cart.”

In those days, aircrew were issued with a personal parachute, an ungainly bundle which doubled as the seat cushion. Years of exhaustive testing had ensured that its oversized buckles protruded excruciatingly into every part of the pilot’s anatomy that touched the parachute bum pack.

To walk erect wearing a bum pack parachute was only possible with the crotch straps loosened. Uncomfortable as this may have been, it was far easier than carrying the heavy parachute in your hands. Consequently, our overweight instructor left his parachute loosely fastened as he climbed out of the aircraft and into the Pie Cart to observe his boy’s first solo, which usually consisted of two circuits – i.e., after the first landing, the student would apply power and immediately take off again to make a second, this time full stop landing.

Our hero got airborne successfully, and approached for his first solo landing. All went well, but as he applied power on his touch and go, the Wirraway’s reputation for ground looping was once again reinforced. The aircraft started to swing, corrected, and swung again into a tightening ground loop, the instructor watching helplessly from the Pie Cart.

As far as ground loops go, this one was a doozey. The aircraft’s wing tip dug into the ground, the tail rose and the aircraft rolled sideways, completely destroying the wings, propeller, and tail. With bits of airframe flying in all directions and the whole scene swathed in a growing pall of dust, Sir leapt from the Pie Cart, and with his parachute banging against his buttocks, sprinted - for the first time in ten years - to where the remains of the aircraft were finally coming to rest.

On arriving, he was confronted by a battered cigar shape of the fuselage becoming visible as the dust settled. Inside the shattered cockpit sat our hero - completely unscathed. Fearful of fire, Sir extricated him from the cockpit and led him away from the aircraft.

Adrenaline fast draining, Sir’s body at last got the message through to his brain that three-minute miles were a bit beyond it, thank you very much. He promptly collapsed exhausted upon the ground beside his rather bemused student.

At this moment, the Fire Engines and Ambulance screeched to a halt beside the two pilots, and taking in the scene in a moment - the injured pilot lying on the ground, pulled from the wreckage by his heroic colleague seen running to the rescue - the Medicos went into their act. As they lifted the still panting instructor onto a stretcher, he went into a creditable outboard motor impersonation (“But, but, but...!”).

However, knowing the dangers of shock, the doctor, who had arrived at the scene within seconds of the Ambulance and Fire Engines, injected him with a sedative sending the already exhausted body quickly into a narcotic sleep.

Our hero meanwhile was left standing among the chaos of fire hoses, foam, and disappointed Firemen (no fire!).

As the crowd gathered, the Chief Flying Instructor joined the throng. Espying our hero, in a moment he took in what had happened. (CFIs are like that.) He realised that if our hero was given any time to think about what had happened, he would almost certainly baulk at ever getting into an aeroplane again. After ensuring that the boy was unharmed, the CFI got him into another aircraft immediately, took him up for a circuit, was happy with what he saw, and sent him solo - again.

Most people on the base that day agreed that the events of the day were a little extraordinary. After standdown that day, all retired to the bar where our hero was plied with congratulatory drinks by all. After all, it’s not often a young man goes solo, totally writes off an aeroplane, and goes solo a second time, and all in the one day!

By around 9 pm, sobriety amongst the off-duty personnel on the base was in short supply. By that time, the instructor had at last recovered from the well-meaning attention of the Base Medical Section, and been able to convince them that they had the wrong body in their hospital. It is standard procedure to keep an accident victim in hospital overnight for observation. Consequently, at 9 pm, the doors of the Mess bar swung open as two stretcher-bearing medical orderlies trotted into the bar, grasped Our by now very rubber-legged Hero, lay him upon it, and took him off to the Sick Bay for the night.

I am led to believe that he was feeling no pain and did not require a sedative.
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Old 31st Jul 2009, 14:09
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Wiley and parachutes

Superlative ! I have laughed myself silly at your wonderful description of the Solo. Your "asides" are gems of wisdom. More from you, please, Regle
 
Old 31st Jul 2009, 14:54
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Reagle, how could I refuse? You wish is my command etc... From long ago written notes that no publisher thought anyone would ever be interested in.
___________________

In 1967, there were still a number of World War 2 veterans in the RAAF. Among the officers at least, most of these veterans fitted into two very distinct categories.

The first were those minor gods - (to eighteen year old Cadets Aircrew at least) - senior officers with two and sometimes three rows of medals and campaign ribbons under the coveted wings on their chests. Some wore the golden eagle of a Pathfinder, a man who had flown in one of the expert squadrons of Bomber Command, and had survived at least two tours over Germany. Over a beer in the bar it was sometimes whispered that Wing Commander Blunt, that rather ordinary looking Commanding Officer of Base Squadron, had flown Spitfires, and had shot down two Messerschmitts before being shot down himself and escaping through France. He had even spent some time during his escape with the French Resistance, (gasps of wonder!) while Group Captain Evenblunter over there had flown Mosquitoes on some of the precision low-level raids in Europe. (Wow!)

This first category presented us Cadets with something of a problem. We’d seen all those black and white World War 2 English movies starring Richard Todd or Kenneth Moore. All the pilots had been dashing heroes who had no time for the ‘blunties’ – i.e., all those boring people in the Air Force who were over 25 years of age and did not fly (or aspire to fly) high performance aircraft. There had always been the token Australian in those films - and he was always a hard-drinking, outrageous extrovert who could outdo anyone at anything, (just as we all imagined – knew - we were).

Looking back, I seem to remember the token Australian and his crew usually died in a flaming bomber towards the end of the movie just so the ‘terribly terribly’ English leading man could give our dead Colonial’s grieving English girlfriend a shoulder (or considerably more) to cry on, or failing that, be seen to write a touching personal letter to Sheila – (she was always called Sheila) - back in Oz. “England and the Empire will never forget his sacrifice.” Just try as an Australian to get through Immigration at Heathrow today to see how the English have remembered all those sacrifices for the Empire!

These senior officers just did not fit the mould, for to a man, they seemed remarkably like the old ‘blunt’ RAF-types those very heroes treated so disdainfully in those stirring, stiff upper lip films. It seemed hard to believe that they had ever been as young as we were, and unthinkable to imagine that we might one day be as old as they were.

The second category was the old Flight Lieutenants and Flight Sergeants, all of them by then far too old to be still in the General Duties - (the flying) - Branch of the Service. They were now working as Operations Officers or Air Traffic Controllers, however they sported the coveted pilot’s brevet on their chests over impressive rows of faded, mulitcoloured ribbons. They were nothing like the senior blunties. Few of them were as romantic as the movie heroes, but they were characters, almost to a man. When one of them got an audience in the bar late on Friday night, it was not just their stories that were entertaining. It was the offhand asides sometimes made during these yarns that made us realise that some of these men had really been there, done that - and in most cases, got considerably more than the T-shirt.

Their stories were always funny, and never heroic or serious. What these veterans spoke of was the humour of war, but more often just of flying. Sometimes that humour was terribly black, and to a civilian, might seem horribly callous.

These men had flown aeroplanes - (that’s what we called them then, not airplanes) - and they had flown not just aeroplanes, (which would have been enough for us), but the classics: Spitfires and Hurricanes, Mosquitoes and Lancasters, Beaufighters, Mustangs and Kittyhawks - the aeroplanes which had probably originally stirred the imagination of many of us to want to fly in the first place.

We would drink in as much lore as they would offer. Sometimes the conversation would turn to life on a squadron - something we all looked forward to at the end of our Pilot’s Course. This was a mystery to most of us, and any information offered we grasped eagerly. Guarded tales were muttered of traps for young players, and tales were told of this or that fellow’s demise after infringing some unwritten taboo, his career forever blighted. “Yeah, poor bastard ended up as Officer in Charge of goose-neck flares at Meekatharra.” (Meekatharra is about as close to the end of the earth as man has yet settled, and in the Sixties at least, a place seldom visited by outsiders. ‘Officer in Charge Goose Neck Flares at Meekatharra’ was a mythical posting reserved for a man who had erred mightily within the Service, either professionally or socially. Being caught in bed with his CO’s wife was the sort of thing that might win a young officer such a posting. (It’s happened, and more than once!) OiC Beach Umbrellas at Heard Island (near Antarctica) was another variation.)

So, one Friday night, one such visitor to the Cadets’ Club leaned back, elbows on the bar, and said to his attentive audience “Of course, you’ve all heard the story of the oldest Pilot Officer in the Air Force.”

The chorus of wide-eyed Cadets replied “No-o.”

And so, beer replenished, he began his story:


THE OLDEST PILOT OFFICER IN THE AIR FORCE

“Back in the very early days of the Battle of Britain, pilots on immediate standby had to sit strapped into their cockpits for hours on end awaiting a German raid. On cool days, they would have to run their engine for a short time every half hour or so to keep the oil warm enough to allow an immediate takeoff should they be scrambled.

“Anyone who has had to sit on a parachute bum pack for any length of time will attest that this is an exquisite form of torture. Our man - we’ll call him Pilot Officer Bloggs - possessed one item no other pilot on the Station had - a living, breathing pet chimpanzee. With the co-operation of his fitter, he had the perfect system worked out. Dressed in a uniform jacket and flying helmet and goggles, the chimp would sit in P/O Bloggs’ aircraft, the fitter climbing up onto the wing and starting the engine whenever the oil required warming. P/O Bloggs meanwhile would sit in his canvas easy chair in the shade of a tree behind the aircraft. Should the squadron be scrambled, the fitter would leap up, start the engine and grab the chimp as Bloggs struggled into his parachute and climbed into the cockpit. He was usually the last airborne, but in the heat of a scramble, none of the heavies ever noticed. Few of his fellow pilots begrudged him his comfort. Most only wished they had thought of it themselves.

“On the fateful day, P/O Bloggs felt a pressing call of nature that could not be attended to against a tree. The fitter was up on the wing giving the engine a run, so he was reassured that the chimp was in good hands. While he was attending to this call, the scramble bell rang. Trying to button his fly while sprinting back to his aircraft, he was horrified to see his aircraft taxiing at high speed across the grass with the rest of the squadron, its tail already lifting, as his aircraft - and chimp - took off to do battle with the enemy.”

By the time the storyteller had reached this point, most listeners at the bar were in gales of laughter. The storyteller knew his audience though. He knew that there would have to be one amongst the listeners who would ask that question.

Pausing, he looked around the circle over his raised glass, and had probably picked his patsy before the question was asked. The little voice piped up to ask as the laughter died down: “But what happened to the chimp?”

This was the cue for the real punch line to the story: “Well-l, d’you see that Group Captain over there...”
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Old 31st Jul 2009, 18:33
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Just try as an Australian to get through Immigration at Heathrow today to see how the English have remembered all those sacrifices for the Empire

How true, How Bl@@dy true.

was a mythical posting reserved for a man who had erred mightily

Assistant Family's Officer at Saxa Vord in my time.
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Old 31st Jul 2009, 22:22
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Some of my best friends were....Aussies

Just try and get back in to England when you are British and the bearded Immigration Officer is wearing a Turban and last met you in Calcutta !
Pariah postings ? I used to land on an Island in the Gulf called Masirah where the only inhabitants were 14 "erks" and a F/O C.O. and "Jankers consisted of guarding the only plant on the island ....a tomato plant surrounded by barbed wire. They were all allowed to meet the DC 3 to ogle the solitary Indian Stew but were not allowed to go near the Steward !
Seriously , my first CO on Blenheims and then the first Mosquito Squadron was Hughie Edwards VC.,DSO, DFC etc. and later Governor of somewhere called Western Australia I think. On the SQdn (105) my best "Oppo" until he was shot down was Bill Blessing and another Blenheim Aussie whom I took on home on leave to the delights of Blackpool, PO Charlie Graham, later missing. I had a very high ranking pupil when I was at the Empire Flying School who was burdened with the name of Kingsford-Smith ...all of them the salt of the Earth and much missed.
I loved the chimp story and had never heard it before but I have certainly met that Group Captain, in fact I think that he had been promoted and had produced many look alikes. Encore, Regle

Last edited by regle; 1st Aug 2009 at 04:45.
 
Old 1st Aug 2009, 07:37
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Another chapter?

Hi Reg,

You may not have realised that by using the innocent phrase "my first CO on Blenheims..." you have just punched the attention button of info-gannets like myself. I don't suppose you could tell us a bit about what the Blenheim was like to play with; any virtues, vices, idiosyncrasies, etc? Any stories about them that you think might be of interest to the history buff?

I personally would be quite happy with less than 100,000 words on the subject. Of course, the other junkies on the thread may not be...

Cheers,

Dave
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Old 1st Aug 2009, 08:01
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Winjeel and small furry pilots

Hi Wiley,

An Oz correspondent sent me a pic or two of the Winjeel and it looks a rather neat machine. I also found a shot of the Winjeel production line some time ago (not terribly high quality, but interesting) and I would be happy to post it to this thread if someone could take five to tell me how to do it - never done it before.

Meanwhile, a small furry animal story:

A charter plane of rugger players (natch) and supporters crashes on landing; no survivors. At the inquest, a policeman turns up to tell the coroner that actually there was a survivor, a monkey; an intelligent animal that can communicate by gesture. So, the (somewhat dubious) coroner has the monkey sworn in (don't ask, but it involves a bag of peanuts...) and starts to question him.

What was happening on the plane just before the crash?
Monkey raises elbow in time-honoured gesture of drinking.
Coroner shakes head in disapproval.

What else was happening?
Monkey gives impression of someone dealing cards.
Coroner shakes head again.

Anything else happening?
Monkey places left hand in pit of right elbow and gives time-honoured gesture of rampant sex.
Coroner shakes head in total disbelief.

And what were you doing at the time?
Monkey gives impression of operating a control column and throttle...

Cheers,

Dave
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