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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 2nd Oct 2009, 22:10
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johnfairr: As your spelling indicates you did not live there, here is a link
Seaside architecture - Palmeira Court and the Arches cafes at Westcliff on Sea, Essex on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
to Palmeira Towers Westcliff, about half a mile from where I lived most of my life. It's right on the seafront, and would have wonderful views, especially of the Southend Air Displays.
And if Reg wants to look at a Halifax restoration (NA337) have a look here
Photo Gallery
and see if it's as you remember!!
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Old 3rd Oct 2009, 10:56
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Mad idea ?

The Daily Mail has a clolum entitled ' Missing and Found' . I put this forward to you and Mr Moderator for your various opinions. Would it be ethical . crazy, or unprofessional to Email the person responsible and say we are searching for Navs, gunners etc on the grounds that they are friends ? That we want them to contribute to PPRuNe ?
Don't shoot me down. I only asked.

JOHNFAIRR. OR GORDON ?
. Another way to publish your pics, which we are all waiting to see, would be to have them scanned at a local office services place , post the copies to me and I will scan and post. Have a word with ANDY . He has done this I think, very successfully with REgLE'S PICS.
These copies are practically as good as the originals.

Last edited by cliffnemo; 3rd Oct 2009 at 11:11.
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Old 3rd Oct 2009, 11:22
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 2

Called up under The Conscription Act, March 1940 – August 1940


In March 1940 I was called up under The Conscription Act and dutifully presented myself for a medical. Most chaps there were herded into the army, very few Navy and a sprinkling of RAF. I explained that I should go into the RAF and told them of my many attempts to get in since April 1939. This cut no ice with the idiot who was interviewing me, he said they had no RAF recruiting office in Westcliffe, whereupon I produced my letter in duplicate, which merely made him a little more anti-me than before. I was then sent for a medical, which proved OK apart from details on eyes.

“What colour are your eyes?” I was asked.

I wasn’t too sure of the exact colour, so I said “Sort of bluey-grey”

“We’ve got blue or brown. I’ll put down as blue.” So that’s what’s been on my personal record card ever since.

I returned home happy in the knowledge that at least I had my foot in the door and if the war lasted 20 years I might get in for the victory celebration. Somewhere about June 1940 I was told to report to Uxbridge for a further board. I met one or two chaps who’d had somewhat similar experiences to mine and we all sat in an ante-room and were called in one at a time for interview. Naturally as soon as one came out he was bombarded with questions as to what he’d been asked. There wasn’t any sort of time to get the answers because we whipped in one after the other. Anyway, one chap came out just before I went in and said he been asked “What are thirteen thirteens?”

So I went in and sat down and the officer immediately said “What are thirteen thirteens?”

Quick as a flash, I said “169”.

He seemed quite staggered, “That’s very good, did you just work it out?”

“No” I said, “I just asked the last chap”.

Anyway it seemed to amuse him and the rest of the interview went quite well. Could I drive a car? Yes, only just. Could I handle a yacht? Yes, Arthur went out on the ocean on weekends at Leigh, I didn’t actually have a yacht of my own. Could I ride a horse? Yes, haven’t done it for ages. I doubt if they believed all they heard but it seemed to go down OK. If I couldn’t be a pilot would I take any other jobs like air-gunner? Yes, I was dead keen, anything I’d take, keep my fingers crossed.
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Old 3rd Oct 2009, 11:52
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Help

Thanks to everone who had helped with putting pics on PPRuNe. Now scanning my pics to get them on Photobucket. Unfortunately most photographs have faded with time like me but doing my best.

Thank you all,

Dave Davis
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Old 3rd Oct 2009, 12:07
  #1145 (permalink)  
regle
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Stop it ,I love it !

Johnfairr, your Father will be smiling away somewhere. In the account so far I have been taken back 69 years as "plus ca change " etc, It was the same then as it is now. I think that he was very lucky to eventually get enlisted as aircrew under the Conscription Act as they could have sent him anywhere, even down the mines. It is why most people ,like myself volunteered as soon as they were able, on attaining 18 , in order to get the Service that you wanted. You had a slight advantage over the Interviewing Officer because you could say "No" and walk out if you were not offered the Service and trade that you wanted. From the age of 20 that "edge" disappeared. My Interviewing Officer did his utmost to persuade me that being a Navigator was the equivalent of the Islamic promise of a First Class ticket to an eventual Paradise of Houris and such delights but I , and this was not typical of me at the age of eighteen, stood my ground and said "I want to be a Pilot or I shall walk out ,Sir" (He was a fiery Group Captain!). Eventually he gave in and wished me luck and added "You are the only Jew that I have met that persecutes Christians. God Help us ! " and then started laughing. He would probably have been prosecuted in this Nanny State ,but I was cock a hoop . Your Father and I must have been around at the same time, as I enlisted around August 1940 but was not called up until October and then had to perform "Ground Duties" .....Euphemism for cleaning Sgts. Mess Bogs" until ITW Jan. 1941... Pages 13 onwards in pprune. It really is a fine thing that you are doing . All the very best,Regle.
 
Old 3rd Oct 2009, 20:13
  #1146 (permalink)  
 
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 3.

This one is a bit lengthy, sorry about that. Next instalments will be later in the week, I am away for a bit without email - apologies

Initial Training Wing (ITW), Babbacombe, Torquay, August 1940 – February 1941


Once more, back home to wait. At last a letter arrived with a warrant for Babbacombe in August 1940. Away I went, complete with gas mask, civilian, in a cardboard box, with a great feeling of relief at finally being on the way to becoming, I’d hoped, a fighter pilot.

We only spent a fortnight in Babbacombe, doing fairly easy tests in maths, geometry, aircraft recognition and being kitted out. We weren’t kitted out all in one go, but bit by bit. We’d get caps and boots one day, webbing equipment another and so on. We were supposed to wear whatever we were given and consequently there were some strange sights; we had a couple of chaps who wore plus fours, who put on their caps and boots and paraded with them. Turned out like a musical hall turn, so the corporal relented and said we were excused the odd bits until completely kitted out. Actually it was quite fun at Babbacombe, the weather was good and we were a decent bunch of chaps and everyone seemed to think, you know, that we were getting somewhere at last. We did bags of PT and drill, marched miles round the Devon countryside.

During one of these marches a Ju88 flew over us at about 100’, smoke coming out of its starboard engine. Naturally, being semi-civilians, discipline went for a Burton and we all came to a grinding halt and stood and watched the Ju88, despite the corporals’ blasphemous tirade. “What did we think we were doing? Suppose the aircraft started firing? We’d be massacred”, and so on. In those days it hardly seemed real, but later in the war you wouldn’t have seen us for dust if a similar situation had arisen.

A couple of Hurricanes flew over a minute or so later, so I doubt very much if the 88 got home.

We had a few air-raid warnings whilst we were at Babbacombe and we were told not to be on the streets whilst the warning was in progress, take cover at once. That was great if you happened to be in the town and in a pub and some of us had a couple of pints. Otherwise it meant sitting in some air-raid shelter until the All Clear went, then going back to the hotel. During one air-raid warning some bombs fell not too far from us, so at the next free period we decided we’d go and have a look. They’d fallen in a field and when we got there the field was already crowded with people, just staring at the holes in the ground. No damage had been done to any property or anything else and it seems a bit strange now to look back and wonder what the fascination was with these holes.

I met some smashing chaps when I was in training and one of them you’ve probably heard me mention before, Dickie Hughband (?) Mum and I kept in touch with him for years and I’ll probably mention again later on. Whilst at Babbacombe we were given various injections, some of which caused enormous lumps to come up on our arms. In some cases chaps completely passed out, but we all managed to survive.

At the end of a fortnight we were all marched smartly, in uniform, to No 5 ITW at Torquay for what was supposed to be ten weeks of intensive ground studies, drill and PT. This was later reduced to eight weeks and it became a bit more intense, but at least we seemed to be getting somewhere. We’d start lectures at 8am and probably finish at 7pm and then do revision until quite late. We still managed to find our way into the town for the odd beer and game of darts, but at 2/- (10p) a day we could hardly go mad! We also had guard duty to carry out. On one occasion I was made guard commander which meant you didn’t actually mount guard outside, but had to keep awake to see the changing of the guard every two hours, a right bind. The following morning we were doing maths and I just fell asleep at the desk, to be woken by the Flt Lt trying to box at me! So I tried to explain that I hadn’t slept all night, he wasn’t impressed and I became Rip Van Winkle to him for the rest of my stay in Torquay.

As usual there were more medicals. They seemed to give us medicals every time we had five minutes spare. I presented myself to the dentist and after he’d checked the number of teeth I had and prodded round, he said,

“You haven’t got enough teeth!”

He was right, I had no teeth at the back. Anyway, I made some bright remark about not biting the Germans to death, but he wasn’t particularly impressed and said I must have the requisite number of teeth, so he would fit me with a plate, which he did. I said,

“Well I probably won’t wear them.”

“It doesn’t matter” he said, “You’ve got them.”

Anyway they duly pitched up and I brought them home and put them in a tobacco tin and screwed the lid on. The tin got stuck away with the rest of my junk and it wasn’t until years later that Mum and I were going through some of my stuff, sorting out this and that, Mum came across this tin, took the lid off and jumped a mile. I wondered what the hell had happened and there were these teeth staring at her! So we dumped them.

We kept having tests on the ground work, they seemed to come every five minutes. I can’t remember anyone actually failing although there were one or two who were put back a course. The instructors were about average, some good, some not so good and some useless, but we had one particularly good navigation officer who was quite a character, great drinker, great dart-player and general bon viveur. One day we got down to Torquay Town Hall, where we used to have our lectures and he marched in, threw his gas-mask on top of the cupboard, turned round and said “Lock the door”. Of course we had visions of some earth-shattering announcement for our attention. One of our lads came from Yorkshire and had an accent you could cut with a blunt knife. He was called to the front and handed some sheets of paper. “Read that”, said the officer and in a broad Yorkshire accent came the tale of Eskimo Nell. We were absolutely rolling in the aisles, I can picture the scene to this day, but we still managed to do well in Nav.

I must admit that with all the drill and marching and PT I became about as fit as I’d ever been or ever likely to be. We had a Norwegian corporal XXX in charge of PT. According to him, he’d been in the Olympic Games, flown seaplanes in Norway and was just a couple of minutes away from being taken into the Air Force as a pilot. A bigger load of rubbish we’d never heard.

I’d played a lot of water-polo before the war and the corporal in charge of swimming was an ex-member of Penguin, which you may or may not know is a well known swimming club. He asked, or rather commanded, that I should play for our ITW. We had a very good team and slaughtered the other ITWs and any other team we met. I was enjoying myself no end until the time came in October for our posting to EFTS. We were due to be posted on the Saturday and on the previous Tuesday we were playing polo in a competition. My opposing centre hit me in the left eye, a bit painful. I suffered a fair amount of damage, but apart from the blood vessels bursting, I’d damaged the eye muscles and I couldn’t open my eye. Anyway an ambulance took me to Torquay Hospital where I lay on my back for two days, until I was allowed to sit up for a while. The only good thing was I had a room to myself and was allowed to smoke, which was some small compensation after losing my chance of posting. Anyway, after a fortnight and various tests, I was given a two weeks sick leave and sent home.

Now I know leave is pleasant when you’re A1, but it’s a right bind when you wander around in dark glasses being unable to move one eye more than halfway. I came back to Torquay for more tests and more sick leave. The snag was that the muscles were so badly damaged that the eye couldn’t move properly and I had double vision, which was most uncomfortable.

Eventually in January 1941 I was declared fit, but by this time all my chums had been posted and all I heard was how great it was to fly and how well they were doing. There were a few compensations, however. There were five of us who had been held up for some reason or another and as we’d completed the course, no one really wanted to take five misfits on each day. So when the flights assembled we used to attach ourselves to the rear rank, march smartly off to the Town Hall in Torquay, where we were supposed to have lectures. We’d follow the flight in, march straight through and out the other side and go into town. We spent the day looking round, going on the front, visiting all the cinemas and generally pottering about. Never once did we get caught by anyone in authority and life became fairly passable.
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Old 4th Oct 2009, 01:58
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Keep 'Em Coming!

I am truly enjoying these great true-life stories!

Reggie, Cliff, Dave, John, and any others I am neglecting to mention, please keep them coming!

The experiences you are sharing are priceless!
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Old 6th Oct 2009, 09:53
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upload pics

Have logged on to Photobucket and uploaded a trial photo. Copied URL of pic and then logged on to 'Prune'.

Copied URL into reply text area, wrapped URL with quotes but can get no further!

Looking at buttons above text area I cannot see an IMG button, have tried a button 'insert image' but nothing happens. Getting desperate!!

Dave
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Old 6th Oct 2009, 10:49
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Gordon. If you have reached this stage (I have inserted spaces in this U.R.L so that it will not show photo.)

[IMG]http://i274.photobucket.com/albums/jj248/cliffordleach /pic2a-1.jpg[ /IMG] (BUT NO QOUTES)

Look for box at bottom right entitled 'prievew post' hopefully your pic will appear, and show you what will be seen on PPrUNE
Did you click box at top of photo then tick IMAGE CODE at bottom, then copy and paste. This is what I do, but there may be a better way.
If this is not the answer let me know how you transfer from photobucket to PPRUNE

Last edited by cliffnemo; 6th Oct 2009 at 11:01.
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Old 6th Oct 2009, 11:55
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the image button is the 4th from the right with the picture of a mountain on it, just click on it and paste the URL into the box that opens.
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Old 6th Oct 2009, 17:18
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Signature Report

Here I am recovering from what was quite a tiring but enjoyable day with the other old Fogeys that gathered with about five hundred eager Autograph Hunters at the very home of the fabulous Mosquito at Salisbury Hall near St. Albans and, of course , Hatfield.
I had never attended one of these signing sessions before and was amazed at the enthusiastic numbers that attended. We were about thirty "Veterans" all looking about the same and most of us in Regulation blazer with a loud jangling that accompanied every step from the rows of medals that were hanging from various points on the body. It was well organised but I was not prepared for the queues that were everlasting. I must say that the vast majority of people that were presenting us with everything from pieces of paper to toilet roll paper that had come from the seat where some famous name had sat; unused, I hasten to add ! , were very polite, enthusiastic and very, very grateful to us for coming and most of them would add "And thank you for what you did.", or words to that effect. One chap had brought a piece of the engine that his Father had kept after he had crashed in a Mosquito amd also a special pen that would write on the metal. There were however some wonderful paintings and drawings that I had never seen before. There was one book that I thumbed through and was quite emotionally touched when I came across the picture,, in a group, of the Navigator,Sgt. les Hogan, from Southport, who had been my Navigator on the "Ops" that I had done at Marham in 1942.. He had stayed on Mossies when I went on to heavies and had been killed very soon afterwards. The owner of the book "Mosquito Thunder" ,kindly e-mailed the details and I ordered it from Amazon yesterday.. I was amazed to get a confirmation from them that it was ordered ,with a personal note saying that the Amazon employee that had handled the order was a certain Lady with a Polish surname whose Father had been a member of 105 Sqdn. and she would very much like to know my connection, They enclosed an address and I have replied furnishing what details I could and , genuinely, praising the many Polish airmen that I had met and had only the greatest admiration for their bravery in combat which surpassed anything that we had known but then we had never been invaded and occupied since 1066. There had been at least one incident where a Pole had rammed a German bomber when his ammunition had been exhausted rather than let it escape.
To go back to the signing; we were taken by coach to a very lovely nearby Pub and given a very good meal with one of the best red wines I have tasted for a long time. It was a shame that a few of us who were driving had to ration ourselves to one glass. Then it was back to the grindstone and ,at a rough guess, I reckon that I finished by signing my name about 400 times... Yes, there were one or two obvious dealers who had about five or six identical prints and the same spiel "..for some friends"but I was agreeably surprised by the amount of really young people
in their twenties and thirties who were present. A surprising amount of children too and, wonderfully, very, very polite and grateful. There is hope for us yet. I felt humble when I heard the chap next to me telling one of them that he had been over Berlin 27 times during his tour with Mossies laying Target indicators for the main stream to aim upon. 27 times ! I had been three times and once was already enough. I think that his name was F.Lt.Durnford.DFC. Sandy Sandeson, Ex BOAC and fellow trainee in 1941, if you are reading this, Ken Tempest D.F.C. sent you his best regards. He was also British Airways, (BOAC) he said,and remembers you well. So it was a good day but as the little Lancashire lad who had been sitting on his cold doorstep said when he came indoors , "Eeh by Goom,Moom, Me Boombs Noomb," Regle
 
Old 6th Oct 2009, 19:09
  #1152 (permalink)  
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Regle

Yes I saw your name included in the list. I arrived at 1015 15 minutes before it was officially opened and was amazed to see a long queue at least of 100 people clutching things to sign. Needless to say I did not join it as I had nothing to sign! I managed to sneak around the side and have a quick chat with a Navigator from XV Squadron sitting at the very end of the table who was on Stirlings and went on many of the same raids as my father before he ended up on Mossies. I was back on the road home by 11am! Sorry to have missed you regle.
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Old 6th Oct 2009, 21:03
  #1153 (permalink)  
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Reg - an aside about Salisbury Hall. A friend has home video shot of the Rolls Royce Mosquito (RIP her crew) "displaying" at SH on the 40th anniversary of the first flight of the Mosquito. He shot it close to the M25, and all you can hear at some points in the sound track are the squeals of cars braking as drivers look up at the aircraft filling their windscreen and think "where the **ck did that come from?"!

Glad you had a great day out there - the father of a friend has time on Mosquitoes, but post-war I think. He spent D-Day above the Normandy beaches in a Spitfire - what a sight he must have taken in.
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Old 6th Oct 2009, 22:28
  #1154 (permalink)  
 
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Glad you had a good day, even at the expense of writers cramp.
There are photos of the queues on the Museum website Mosquito Aircraft Museum - de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre.
I heard rumours that de Havilland Aircraft have gone bust, but no actual confirmation yet. What a pity, another great name bites the dust, if true.... I know Hawker rose from the ruins of Sopwith, but I don't see anything likely to take their place!
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Old 7th Oct 2009, 11:01
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I am afraid that my Beaufighting neighbour is stranded in Spain with an injured hip so I have been unable to follow up his story. Hopefully, when he is back he will be up to sharing his story with us.
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Old 7th Oct 2009, 15:44
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Why pick on me ?
Why me, Cliff,
Cos I thought you might know

Oh well the ‘mad idea’ (contact Daily Mail) fell on stony ground so I will forget the idea.
Prior to our second trip to Naples the matter of paying for items we wished to purchase in Italy was discussed at great length, the majority view was that cigarettes would be the best form of currency, but one member of the crew , who shall be nameless, as usual had a mad idea, bicycles, particularly, as plenty were available behind the guard room. The rest of the crew eventually decided to take cigarettes, leaving the odd member of the crew to experiment with one bike. A bike and spares were ‘acquired’ from the compound behind the guard room , and rebuilt. Our chiefy was promised a bottle of vino rosso if he would winch up the bike into the bomb bay, the deal was made, and the bike disappeared during the night into the bomb bay.
We then took off on our second trip to Naples from Hemswell but landed shortly after at Glatton to pick up our twenty soldiers. On arrival at Pomigliano, the bike was unloaded and put in the back of our transport bound for the Hotel Bella Vista. The bike was quickly sold for a large number of Liras, with which items such as peaches, grapes , cameo jewellery, wine were purchased. Four gallon discarded petrol tins were used to pack the grapes, and peaches in. These tins were a throw away items, being rectangular, and made of thin tin. The top was cut off, two holes punched in opposite sides to take a piece of thick wire which formed a handle. It was quite amusing to see nearly all the crews returning to their aircraft with one of these tins hanging from each hand. Why peaches and grapes ? These had been unobtainable in the U.K for the past four years, and were only beginning to appear in the shops. After my first trip, on my return I had taken a few peaches home, when my sister who had been to York races the previous day told me they had been for sale at 7/6 each, Two equalled one days pay, or fifteen pints of beer ?. We were later to find out that any bike parts, tyres, wheels etc were in short supply in Naples, and fetched a good price. They were a lot worse off than we were in the U.K. In fact on one trip I saw a car approaching making a very loud noise , it had what looked like a Spitfire wheel on one front side and a rim with no tyre on the other front side.

On our day off we decided to visit Pompeii. This was easily accomplished , as it was virtually impossible to walk very far before an army vehicle stopped and the driver would ask ‘where do you want to go ?.’ I have never seen such a happy bunch of people , before or since. They forever seemed to be smiling whistling or singing, with Hear my song Violetta being the most popular song. And no wonder, they had fought their way up from North Africa, suffering great losses and now ready to return home after years away, at last. On arrival at the village of Pompeii, as distinct from the ruins, we were approached by a nice ‘charrio’ driver who offered to take us to the gates of the ruins, which he said was a long way away. for a few hundred Lira. It was a good job that it was a very pleasant drive, for after our guided tour , we followed the way out signs, and found ourselves not far from where we set off in the ‘charrio‘. During our tour, the guide whispered he had Zubricks ( ask your grandfather, wonder if it will be in Wikepedia ?)for sale ,all sizes, which we duly purchased. He also offered , for a small fee, to show us some of the mosaics and pictures, which were too risqué to show to the public, won’t say any more other than one was entitled ‘Worth it’s weight in gold’ Don’t want to upset our nice Mr Moderator.

The return journey was uneventful , but amusing to see the overworked ‘His Majesties customs’ man speeding along the perry track on his bike. And also amusing, on landing at Hemswell , to see all the crews leaving the aircraft carrying large tins, and some wearing straw hats emblazoned with the word Capri.

Gordon, I think I have misled you, that is if you were to some extent guide by my scan of the photobucket page ( see post 1129_) . It shows three pages, when in fact the centre page should not have been included, as it shows how to highlight a quote. This may be why you see <quote1qoute?, only the top and bottom page are relavent. Why not P.M me with your phone number, and Iwill ring you using Skype ?
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Old 7th Oct 2009, 16:57
  #1157 (permalink)  
 
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Photos from Photobucket to PRUNE

Hope I've succeeded! Clicking 'insert images' does nothing but I noticed on one of your help replies the photo URL starts with square bracket IMG square bracket and ends similarly. Tried this and then 'preview post' and lo and behold the picture appeared. Let's try it.

Hopefully this is a photo of HMS Attacker entering Singapore Harbour a few days after the Japanese surrender.



As far as I know only three of us went ashore. We were each issued with webbing and a revolver. We decided to walk up to the Raffles Hotel and imbibe in liquid refreshment. Very intimidating, as we walked along there were Japanese soldiers walking around apparently unsupervised. Across the road two Japanese were digging with pick axes. One soldier kneeled down and the other drove his pick axe through his mates back. WE BEAT A HASTY RETREAT BACK TO THE ATTACKER!!

Now I will try preview post, hope and reply

.Dave Davis
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Old 7th Oct 2009, 20:35
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Gents,

Can I just say how much I am enjoying this thread, the stories are incredible, it feels like I'm living each and every one of them. Hopefully more will join with their stories and the rest continue with their tales.

Thank you all for your past and the current effort, it's very much appreciated.
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Old 8th Oct 2009, 19:54
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 4.

Brough, Flying Training, February 1941 – First solo in March – May 1941


Finally, at the end of Feb 1941 my posting came through and in company with some forty others we collected all our gear and a train for Brough. It was like entering another world, apart from actually being on an airfield and seeing planes, in our case Tiger Moths, the whole atmosphere was that of a holiday camp. Brough used to be a private flying club base, and the mess and sleeping accommodation were absolutely first class. The food was excellent and we relaxed in comfortable surroundings. Compared with what we’d had at Torquay, discipline was very, very lax. We had a flight sergeant, a sergeant and a corporal and their one idea was to sit the war out without upsetting anybody or getting caught out doing anything. The idea was don’t worry us and we won’t worry you. One good thing was that we were allowed to wear shoes instead of boots and consequently there was terrific rush into Hull to the shoe shops and denude them of shoes. But it made such a difference to the feel of life in general to walk about in shoes, as opposed to clod-hopping round in boots.

Once we’d started the actual course there was a certain amount of tightening up. We’d begin the ground work at 8am usually finishing about 6pm with lunch and tea-breaks in between, trying to fathom the intricacies of Nav and maps while listening to the senior flight spending most of their time airborne. We had a civilian instructor for Nav, he wasn’t a particularly good teacher. He was miserable to boot. For some reason or other, he seemed very anti-pilot, I think he wanted everyone to be a navigator. I found it very hard to get on with him, but at least I managed to get reasonable pass marks so I was not too worried. We had the usual intermediate tests to see if it was worthwhile continuing to push theory into us while our minds were out on the aerodrome. One test produced some classic failures. A chum of mine, Dickie Charman, ex-Bedford College lad who knew Brian Kingcome, was completely hopeless at some things and navigation was one of them. He made a complete cobblers of one of the tests and the navigation officer was fed up with him and sent him off to the CFI (Chief Flying Instructor) for a final farewell before being shoved off into the army or some backwater in the RAF. Anyway, Dickie was told by the CFI that he wasn’t up to standard and was being taken off the course. Now Dickie was an LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) at the time, so he stood in front of the CFI, argued at some length and he finally said,

“You can’t do that, I’m a keen type!”

Anyway, believe it or not, we were more than surprised when he came back to us in the mess having convinced the CFI that he might be a decent bloke after all.

In actual fact he finished up in Hurricanes in North Africa. I met him in Gibraltar and he was just the same slap-happy character I knew in 1941. He was shot down whilst on a recce and he managed to talk some a-rabs into getting him back by waving his revolver at them. He got a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) later on.

It was quite funny, really, because the CFI Squadron Leader had just been given the AFC (Air Force Cross) for the good work he’d done at Brough, but he rather spoiled his record by having a couple of bad crashes, one of which involved one of our chaps colliding with the CFI in mid-air. The CFI managed to bring his aircraft down, but got a beautiful black eye. The student spun in and was killed.

Half way through the course we became the senior flight and did more flying than groundwork, which suited us to a tee. The snag was, the weather was grim and there’d be gaps of four or five days between flights, which didn’t help when you were just beginning to get the hang of things. On the other hand, on good days you could fly four or five times, so it straightened itself out. Five pupils were allocated to one instructor and we were more than fortunate with ours. He was Sergeant Tommy Ellis ex-92 Sqn. He took a tremendous interest in each of us and became more of a chum than an instructor. He lived out with his wife and used to invite us out to his house where his wife would do food and beer, and spend the evening listening to tales of squadron life and reading his logbook. He’d got two confirmed and some damaged in the B of B (The Battle of Britain, June 1940 – October 1940) then got taken off for a rest.

Of our five pupils under him, two were to be allocated to fighters and the others to bombers, and as well all wanted fighters the competition became a bit fierce. We were all anxious to go solo in as short a time as possible and, bless our instructor, he was a cautious chap, and what with the weather often not good enough for pupils to go aloft on their own, I took eight hours and fifty minutes before he sent me off on my own. That, I must admit, was probably one of the greatest moments in my life. I see from my log book that the great day March 23rd 1941, nearly 44 years ago and yet it almost seems like yesterday.

I took off with Sgt Ellis, we just did one circuit, landed, taxied back and he said,

“Stay there”.

He got out and tied his straps together, then just said,

“Take her up, do a circuit and come in and land.”

Now up till that time, with an instructor flying with you, your main interest is handling the aircraft when it’s in the air, you’re not madly worried about taking it off the ground and that you take it your instructor knows what he is doing. He can see all the aircraft coming in and taking off and there is no panic. But suddenly, when you are sitting in a cockpit on your own, you suddenly realise what there is to do.

So I turned round, at right angles to the take-off path, scoured the sky for other aircraft … appreciate there must have been dozens, hopping in and hopping out, going round and round. Having made sure that all was well I turned into the wind, opened up the throttle, and shot off to the other side of the aerodrome. Now fortunately, everything went absolutely beautifully. I sailed over the railway track, which bordered one side of the aerodrome, climbed up to 1000’, turned left, came down the downwind side, keeping an eye open for other aircraft all the time, turned across wind, still looking everywhere, throttled back, trimmed the aircraft and hoped that all was going to be well. I floated into the aerodrome and I must admit, it was probably the best landing I’ve ever made in my life. It absolutely curtsied itself onto the grass and I trundled to the far end of the aerodrome, feeling absolutely marvellous and very relieved. I turned round at the end and taxied back and thought “Thank God for that!” I’d soloed, all is well and now I can get out! As I stopped, Sergeant Ellis came round the wing, hung on to the side of the cockpit and said

“Very good, now go and do it again.”

Well, feeling a little more confident than I had been the first time, I took off, made another circuit, came in and made another, touch wood, very good landing, much to my delight. This time Sergeant Ellis patted me on the back, said “Congratulations” and I was allowed to get out. That was the end of my flying for the day. After that we did almost as much solo flying as we did dual and I must say the Moth is a beautiful aircraft. If you get enough altitude, you can do almost any kind of aerobatic apart from an upward roll, because you could never get enough speed up for it. We practised loops, spins and slow rolls and eventually we became fairly proficient, or so we thought.
johnfairr is offline  
Old 8th Oct 2009, 22:20
  #1160 (permalink)  
regle
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Johnfairr

John I have to keep reminding myself that this is your Father talking and what a great chap he must have been ! He writes as though he were talking to you and takes me back to the days that I was doing the same thing. I soloed on the 28th. of June 1941, just three months after him, after 9 hours of dual and experienced exactly the same feelings as he did ,only now it is 68 years on and I had just had my nineteenth Birthday the Month before. Do you know what age he would have been then ? I have found it amazing how many pilots I have met throughout my career whose birthday was in May and so had Taurus for their sign. There were even two in Sabena who had the same date as mine, the 8th. (VE Day !).
The huge difference that struck me was the strict and ridiculous discipline that we had to undergo under the American system . Although the training was magnificent, the atmosphere out of the air was wretched and I envy the conditions that your Father described so well. Meals with your Instructor and Wife! There was absolutely no after flight liaising until we reached the dizzy heights of Advanced when they relaxed a bit and even allowed that you might be human after all. I look forward so much to hearing more and would appreciate your own comments about what you, yourself, feel when you see all of this in black and white. That , of course, is a very private matter and I understand perfectly. Reg
 

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