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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 19th Aug 2017, 09:30
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sidevalve wonderful photographs and anecdotes. Truly the greatest generation.

I see from your profile that you live in S.W. France. A wonderful region.

I drove up into Spain in the 1970's -- there was a motorway which ran by the Gulf de Lyon, but on that trip I travelled on a similar route to that described in your posts.

It must have been a steep ride on a bicycle.
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Old 19th Aug 2017, 09:51
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Danny & Ian16th

Re your comments #11151 #11153 about the Burma photos that had appeared in the Daily Mail I’ve had a look at the photo of the two airmen in a rickshaw I think Ian has it right as having been taken on the Durban seafront.




I say this with experience because in August 1953 I’d hitch-hiked down to Durban from 5 FTS, RAF Thornhill in S. Rhodesia and whilst in Durban was photographed in a rickshaw on the Durban seafront with the rickshaw driver sporting a similar headdress – see photos below.











One other memory from my trip to Durban 64-years ago was that one could go on a bus tour into Zululand and photograph Zulus in their homeland going about their daily chores such as this photo I took of a bare-breasted Zulu maiden grinding Maize into mealie-meal.





What one could do in the RAF in those days!
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Old 19th Aug 2017, 13:20
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I’m actively involved with an association based in the Côte Basque dedicated to preserving the memory of those in the Basque country who risked all in support of the Allies during WWII. I work together with the son of a wartime Basque “passeur” (Comet guide) in researching the history of Comet’s operations in the area. Very little was committed to paper at the time for obvious reasons and so we have to use what little hard info we have – plus contact with the few remaining veterans and descendants of those wartime helpers.

Comet was run in the South West by Mme De Greef (aka ‘Tante Go’), a Belgian refugee, and she kept a meticulous log in an exercise book of each crossing – dates, names (rank, service, home address ) and names of the Comet guides. She kept all her incriminating papers in a coffee tin tucked away on a shelf in a nearby shop. Fortunately, I have a copy and it has proved invaluable, together with evader reports, in helping to unravel – as best we can – what actually happened.

There were two main axes for crossing the Pyrenees: the first was the original route pioneered by Andrée De Jongh. This involved a 4-5 hr trek up and over the mountains until they reached the River Bidassoa at a location known as San Miguel – where the river marked the frontier between France and Spain. After fording the river, they were faced with a sporty climb straight up through a mass of tangled vegetation before emerging in more open, but no less rugged, country.

Their destination was “Sarobe Farm” – a safe house near Oiartzun, Spain. This trip would normally take the evaders about 10 hours – and up to 14 hours in inclement weather (viz George Duffee). They would rest at the farm until a car arrived from the Consulate at Bilbao to take them first to the Embassy at Madrid, and then on to Gibraltar and home.

After the arrest of Andrée De Jongh in January 1943 at Bidegain Berri, a safe farm near Urrugne, a Belgian noble named Jean François Nothomb (aka “Franco”) became head of Comet. Due to the heightened security by German patrols in and around the coastal frontier area, “Franco” set about establishing an alternative, less risky, inland route. I’ll cover the inland route(s) in a future post.

One of the outcomes of the round-the–clock bombing of the Reich by the 8th AF by day and the RAF Bomber Command by night was that the number of Allied aircrew evaders ‘in the system’ ramped up sharply and once the Allied Tactical Air Forces achieved air superiority over large swathes of France, the wisdom of evaders using the French rail network was called into question as P-47s and rocket-firing Typhoons roamed at will looking for targets of opportunity.

Over 800 Allied airmen were successfully repatriated while in the care of the Comet Line, with 286 successfully evading via the Pays Basque – the balance of 500+ airmen were held concealed in makeshift camps in large forests (Fréteval in France and the Ardennes) and kept supplied by air.

Only two evaders were lost while in Comet’s protection. One was the outgoing head of Comète in Belgium, Count Antoine d’Ursel (aka “Jacques Cartier”), who was ‘burnt’ (ie, his cover was blown by the Gestapo) and was en route to London.. The other was 2nd Lt James Frederick Burch, USAAF – a 26 year old B-17 co-pilot from Terrell, Tx. This tragic saga will be the subject of the next post.

Interactive map here.

Below: Mme De Greef (aka "Tante Go"); the Bidassoa valley; Bidegain Berri, Urrugne; "Franco"; Count Antoine d'Ursel; 2nd Lt James F Burch, USAAF.
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Old 19th Aug 2017, 14:38
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Slight digression - Dieppe 75th Anniversary 19 August

Today is 75th Anniversary of Dieppe Raid - was recently in contact with an old school pal, turns out his father was a Spitfire pilot on 129 Sqd
Dieppe was his second op ( with only 120 hours t/time) was attacking Hess battery then bounced by 4 x FW's, escaped flying under electric lines then on return found a few holes, changed a/c and returned

PZU - Out of Africa (Retired)
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Old 19th Aug 2017, 14:48
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Ah well, in Aug 53 I was still a Boy Entrant, with 12 years of RAF 'experience' in the future, but now I live about 110Km south of Durban.
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Old 19th Aug 2017, 20:17
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Following Warmtoast's working example of mealie grinding. Collected many years ago in northern Kwa Zulu it must have seen many tonnes of throughput before the bottom fell out - hidden under the grinding stone! Heaven knows how old it is but Cetshwayo might have nourished himself therefrom!
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Old 20th Aug 2017, 00:31
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sidevalve, how amazing that the Comet Line lost only 2 evaders, one of them being one of its own, despite the great number that was passed along its extended length. That it was only really brought to a stand by the growing threat of blue on blue Allied air attacks is an ironic twist, as were the French forest camps established in its stead to house and hide those who were evading and/or escaping from.....German camps! Irony also extended I suspect to the title of Tante adopted by these courageous girls and young women who were at the very heart of this lifeline.

If we can have a generic memorial to women of WWII in Whitehall, then we should have a specific one there to those men and women who thwarted the enemy in occupied territories by aiding the escape and evasion of our Armed Forces. The constant fear of your door being battered down at 3am requires a very cold courage indeed to overcome.

Thank you for reminding present generations of the sacrifice made back then to return democracy to the nations of Western Europe, and why it is important to go on defending it today.

Warmtoast, the colourful rickshaw drivers in your pictures might well be the sons of those who met my father's outbound troopship in Durban in December 1941. He duly got snapped in such a rickshaw and sent the photo home before embarking again for Singapore. Events however intervened and they disembarked in the Dutch East Indies instead, before being overrun by the Japanese Imperial Army. No Comet Line there I'm afraid!
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Old 20th Aug 2017, 07:57
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Originally Posted by Chugalug2
If we can have a generic memorial to women of WWII in Whitehall, then we should have a specific one there to those men and women who thwarted the enemy in occupied territories by aiding the escape and evasion of our Armed Forces. The constant fear of your door being battered down at 3am requires a very cold courage indeed to overcome.
That's the point I often make to local people here - many of whom are unaware of what Comète was all about, and the fact that its operations in south west France were run from a house about 1km from the Kommandantur at Anglet comes as a complete surprise to many.

The aircrew had been trained to carry out their primary flying task and they were only at risk in flight. If they were shot down and captured, they were protected (in theory) by the provisions of the Geneva Convention.

In contrast, none of the Comète volunteers had been trained - and facing them were the various arms of the German security services (Gestapo, the Sicherheitsdienst, the Feldgendarmerie, the Luftschutzpolizei, Abwehr etc etc). The Occupier had made it perfectly clear that aiding airmen/parachutists would incur severe consequences. Comète helpers had always to be on the alert for anything out of the ordinary - such as a strange face in the street perhaps. They were at risk 24/7 until they were captured - and that occurred, as Andrée De Jongh always briefed prospective helpers, on average after no more than 6 months of operating. Once captured, they had to endure harsh interrogations before either being shot or deported to the camp system in Germany, usually under 'Nacht und Nebel' conditions.


'Tante Go'

'Tante Go' was tailor-made for her role as Comète organiser in the SW. She quickly realised that she needed a cover story to divert attention from her constant comings and goings and so she became a black marketeer (a forbidden activity). She actually supplied senior German officers with delicacies such as foie gras etc. A useful spin-off from this activity meant that, despite food rationing, she was always able to feed the evaders, who generally arrived - hungry - in groups of four.



Living with the De Greef family was an Englishman - Albert Johnson (aka 'B'). He had been the chauffeur and travel secretary to the President of the International Olympic Committee in Brussels since 1928. During the mad days that followed 10th May 1940, he had been adopted by the De Greefs as they fled south west. He was quickly fixed up with some false papers in the name of Albert Jonion.

Employed ostensibly as a handyman/gardener to the De Greefs, he too became a Comète helper and in due course went on to lead 13 groups of evaders over the mountains. One day, 'Tante Go' and 'B' set off by train to visit Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to meet someone in connection with Comète. However, during a routine inspection of papers during the journey, 'B' was arrested. (His looks and his accent betrayed him) On arrival at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, he was taken to the Citadelle, a fort used by the Germans as a prison. This was a highly dangerous situation as he was intimately familiar with Comète operations - so, bold as brass, 'Tante Go' called at the prison demanding to see the senior officer in charge. She admitted that she and 'B' were there to collect black market supplies and she invited the police chief to telephone her food supplier and also her most senior German customer in Anglet to corroborate her story. Embarrassment all round followed - and 'B' was released.

A positive outcome of this story was 'Tante Go' now had top cover for her black market business! She was a cool customer. After the war, she was invited to London where she was presented with the George Medal by the King.

As for 'B', following this incident, it was decided that it was too dangerous for him to stay in France so he left for Spain and worked for MI-9. Post-war, 'B' married and lived initially in Devon but he felt stifled there so in 1952 they emigrated to Australia, finally settling in Tasmania and living in Opossom Bay some 40 km south of Hobart.

'B' died of cancer in St John's Hospital, Hobart on the 3rd of February, 1954 aged just 45.

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Old 21st Aug 2017, 11:07
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A little later than WW2. RAF Mauripur, Xmas Day 1953





(Thanks to Steve Gerrard on Facebook)
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 11:30
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They ate better than those that came later!

In 1961 when 214 based tankers there, we were in the North Western Hotel in Karachi proper for 3 weeks.

Every man jack of us went down with dysentry.

Later trips we used the Palace Hotel, much better. But we never had another visit as long as 3 weeks.
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 12:03
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In late 1958 I flew from Singapore to Blackbushe via Calcutta, Karachi, Bahrain, Beiruit, Brindisi.

In the hotel in Karachi I asked my father what was this disgusting meat we were eating.

"Camel steak" came the reply. I always thought he was joking, until I read someone else describing being served-up Camel steak there.

But on Royal Air Force stations catering has always been to a high standard.
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 12:12
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...argh! Memories of Christmas. 5 FTS, RAF Thornhill, S. Rhodesia - Xmas 1951



Waiting for the officers to serve us our turkey


Earlier out on the airfield Father Xmas had arrived from the North Pole by Anson with sacks of toys for the kids










Later in the afternoon on the sports field the Sergeants dressed up in fancy dress to play the officers in a Christmas football match.
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 12:13
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Originally Posted by roving
In late 1958 I flew from Singapore to Blackbushe via Calcutta, Karachi, Bahrain, Beiruit, Brindisi.

In the hotel in Karachi I asked my father what was this disgusting meat we were eating.

"Camel steak" came the reply. I always thought he was joking, until I read someone else describing being served-up Camel steak there.

But on Royal Air Force stations catering has always been to a high standard.
Both camel & goat were served by the North Western Hotel.
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 13:24
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But on Royal Air Force stations catering has always been to a high standard.
Apart from RAF Waddington Airmen's Mess in 1967 and 1968 that is.

We staged the great Mess boycott, treated by Their Airships as a mutiny and investigated by the SIB. The 'snoops' uncovered a catering swindle and the mess caterer and two accomplices were court-marshalled after which the food improved enormously.
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 13:57
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When we took some Javelins out to Singapore we stopped for a couple of nights in Karachi at some hotel known as Mini Wallahs. This was used because apparently it was the only hotel that could accommodate a planeload of passengers should a Britannia break down.

We had two RAF medical officers with us who at first sight decamped to the Speedbird at the airport.

The were two lift shafts but only one lift. The other shaft was ungated so you could look up or down four floors. There were two sets of plumbing in the rooms. The original was inoperative and had green mould around the orifices; the working set looked lethal.

We were issued with water and threatened with dire consequences if we even cleaned our teeth with the hotel water. The food was dreadful but the conditions in the dining room was OK; they had fly screens all around to stop them coming out of the kitchen.

When we departed two of us Valiants taxiied out with four Javelins behind us for departure, We were cleared to line up and that was it.

After fifteen minutes we were getting worried about the fuel state getting to Gan. We were refused take off, again, so the leader called rolling and we all took off with ATC erupting over the radio.

For some reason or other we never routed through Karachi again. Thank God!
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Old 21st Aug 2017, 15:07
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roving and others,

Spent a fortnight in Gatow on attachment when the Berlin Wall sprouted in summer 1961, and it looked as if we were likely to have a second Airlift. The favourite place for Sunday lunch was the Belgian Officers' Club at Tegel (?), where they did the most magnificent steaks (reputed to be horse - but none the worse for that !)

Never knowingly ate camel (out East it was always a mistake to ask what the main ingredient in your curry was). What goes into one end of a camel comes out the other. Dried and ground, it is reputed to be the main constituent of the filling of a "bidi" (the ubiquitous Indian roll-your-own).

But then you hear so many things ............

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Old 21st Aug 2017, 17:01
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Originally Posted by Fareastdriver
We were issued with water and threatened with dire consequences if we even cleaned our teeth with the hotel water.
The 1st trip 214 had to Karachi we also took our own MO with us. He tested the water etc and warned us the same.

We groundcrew travelled by Hastings that trip, we had night stopped at El Adem and Aden where I had bought a bottle of duty free gin. This was used in Karachi for cleaning teeth!
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Old 23rd Aug 2017, 12:56
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This morning I was re-reading some of Hummingfrog's very informative posts dating from 2014.

His father and mine were on the same course at 1BFTS ( No. 12 course), they both were then posted to Montrose on the flying instructors course, but not at the same time.

For reasons I may post about on another occasion, unlike most on the course at 1BFTS, my father was already getting in long in the tooth -- he was aged 26 when he completed the course and had previous flying experience having been trained and flown solo with the Civil Air Guard pre-war.

Reading those posts prompted me to look again at "The Course Photograph'. Seated in the centre of the front row (close to my dad) was a student named Peter Tisshaw.

I thought I would undertake a little research.

His promotion to Pilot Officer and at a later date to Flt Lt appeared together with my father's name in the London Gazette. Add to which their service numbers were sequential.

Peter Tisshaw had joined the Royal Air Force in 1941 after graduating from University. Like Hummingfrog's father and mine, he too had become a QFS.

The Gazette then records that in late 1945 he was posted on 'special duties'.

From a note written about him, in December 1945 he was posted to Turkey returning to the UK in January 1946. He then left the service and became a test pilot with Boulton Paul.

On the 3rd of February 1949, he was the observer in a prototype B.P. T2 trainer which which was under the control of B.P.'s chief test pilot. It appears that 'diving tests were being performed.

The canopy detached and the a/c hit the ground at high speed, killing both.

http://thetartanterror.********.lt/2...1923-1949.html

The attrition rate of test pilots in the late 1940's and 1950's was very high.

My father was coming under increasing pressure to join A.V. Roe as a test pilot in the late 1940's. The AAF Squadron he was flying with was closely connected to A.V. Roe. The Hon air Commodore was Sir Roy Dobson, the Chairman of A.V. Roe and my father was very good friends with the C.O. of the Squadron, who was a test pilot with A.V.R.

Tragically my father's friend was killed in 1956 when testing a prototype Shackleton.
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Old 23rd Aug 2017, 14:08
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Originally Posted by roving
Tragically my father's friend was killed in 1956 when testing a prototype Shackleton.
Was this Sqn Ldr Jack Wales? My mother knew his wife and through her, him. I remember my mother being very upset when Mrs Wales came round to give the bad news (we didn't have a phone in those days)
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Old 23rd Aug 2017, 14:17
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Originally Posted by olympus
Was this Sqn Ldr Jack Wales?
It was.

I spoke to his son in 2007, a few weeks before my father passed away.

His medals and log books were auctioned off last year (I think).

I will dig a photo out of the shoe box with Jack Wales and my dad on it and post it here later today.

In 1956 we were in K.L. I asked my mother why my dad was upset and she told me that he had learnt of the accident.

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