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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 14th Oct 2009, 16:02
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regle
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Thanks Andy for the picture

I think that this was taken when I was Instructing at the Empire Flying School, Hullavington and had finished my "Ops". The receding hair line and the Grey streak were tokens of the stress. I would be about twenty three years old. Reg
 
Old 14th Oct 2009, 18:32
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 7.

We had three fairly long cross-countries to do as tests before the Wings Test and also night-flying, which was interesting. The first cross-country was to Shawbury and back, which was a piece of cake. The second one was to Newport Pagnall, then Bourne, Devizes and back to Kidlington. That one was a bit longer, it took two hours and ten minutes, but I managed to find all the aerodromes, land and get marked in and marked out and get back again. It was the third cross-country that proved the most traumatic to most of us. We had to go to Stratford-on-Avon, Bromyard, Trowbridge, then back home. On the last leg, the weather closed in and there was a most colossal thunderstorm, you couldn’t see much at all, the rain was belting down and it wasn’t at all comfortable. Anyway, I had a quick prayer and hoping that my map-reading was as good as I hoped it was and thought it was, I managed to get through the storm and find my way back to Kidlington.

I think the storm must have had some effect on me because I did a beautiful circuit all around Kidlington and then, coming in to land over the hedge, I was somewhere about 600’ up, so unless I dive-bombed the aerodrome, I couldn’t get in and I realised this about halfway across. So I opened up, got into a circuit again, a proper circuit, and came in and landed. I felt quite pleased, actually. I’d managed to do the cross-country, I’d flown through some stinking weather, and I’d got the aircraft back without smashing everything up. When I got back to the dispersal, I found that several chaps had been put off, here, there and everywhere and landed in various spots because of the weather, so I felt quite chuffed with myself. But one of my chums came up to me and said,

“It’s a pity you couldn’t have watched yourself land, Robbie. Old Gaynor was watching you come in and was literally jumping up and down and shouting, saying “Look at bloody R********, he does the cross-country, comes through all the weather, and lands a 1000’ up!””

He was shrieking his head off apparently, but by the time I got there, I think he must have realised that I hadn’t done too badly so he didn’t say anything to me. He was a strange lad, though.

He must have thought I was a reasonable pilot after all that, though, because a couple of weeks later he called for me to get in a certain aircraft. He was coming with me and there were two other Flt Lts with him and I couldn’t understand what it was all about. Anyway he told me which way to fly and I flew and I finished up, as I gather now, on the Newmarket racecourse. The racecourse was on one side and the landing field was on the other side of the track. So we landed there, the officers got out and Gaynor turned round to me and said,

“Alright, Robbie, now fly it back!”

It wasn’t until I got back that I found out they were running The Derby from Newmarket on June 18th 1941. All he wanted to do was to use me as a taxi!

Our night-flying took place at Weston, which was a satellite, not too far from Kidlington and we used to fly over there late afternoon or early evening, wait until dusk, and then start our night landings. The lucky chaps were those who went off first, before it was actually pitch dark. They had at least a tiny bit of light to see where you were going. I’d never been very keen on night-flying, but I managed to do my requisite number of landings alright, except on one occasion when I got lost for about a quarter of an hour. It wasn’t very funny, although they had a fail-safe method, whereby if you got lost, you just flew round and round in circles flashing your identification lights and then the nearest searchlight would lay its beam down and point to the nearest aerodrome and you flew along the beam and hopefully saw the aerodrome. Fortunately I never had to use that method, after being lost for about ten minutes or a quarter of an hour, I managed to find my way home and landed with a great sigh of relief.

I managed to get two weekend leaves whilst I was at Kidlington. On the first one, two or there of us hitch-hiked into London, which wasn’t too difficult as any lorry-driver or any sort of vehicle would stop and give you a lift to where you were going, provided it was near where they were going. Coming back you had to pay your own fare, but it was easier to get in to London than it was out. On the other occasion, as I said, Shadforth, my instructor, lived at Seven Kings and he had a car and happened to be going home at the same time as I was and so he dropped me almost outside the door and picked me up on the way back, which was very pleasant.

One thing I haven’t mentioned was that each Sunday there was a compulsory church parade in the morning. All polished and shiny, we’d line up and march behind the band about three quarters of a mile to where the hangar was that they had the church parade in. We never knew what the tune was, but they played it every Sunday, week after week after week, and eventually towards the end of the course, we learnt it was The Air Force March.
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Old 14th Oct 2009, 22:20
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Wowee, we almost have an entire bomber crew... and a fighter escort. This thread continues to amaze. I know I've said it before, but it's the little details about the every-day life that makes the history real. Don't stop, please!

Reg the last photo posted by Andy reminds me a little of a few studio portraits I've seen of Phil Smith, the pilot of my great uncle's crew. One was taken shortly after he arrived in England (from Australia) and shows a strikingly young, very fresh-faced Phil. Photos taken just a couple of years later - after a tour on Wellingtons then a second on Lancasters, and a four-month long evasion in occupied France - show a much older and wiser man.

There was a lot of growing up to be done, very quickly. And we are forever thankful that you all did.

-Adam
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 11:56
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 8.

For late-joiners . . . . .


Verbatim transcription of tape-recordings by Flight Lieutenant RJH R******** RAFVR DFC, made in 1984, just after the birth of his first grandson, James. Transcribed by John R********, April 2007. In order to make the text more understandable, I have included notes, in italics, to clarify places, characters and timings.


We were now coming to the end of the course and so far had only one casualty. That was a Swiss chap who had some trouble and decided to make a forced landing and unfortunately picked a field where the width was only half as long as the length but the prevailing wind was across the width. Now if he’d had any sense he’d have done a cross-wind landing and taken the longer strip of field. As it was, he tried to get in on the short end, finished up in a hedge, wrote himself and the aircraft off.

Before the postings came up, we each had an interview with the Flight Commander and I presented myself to Flt Lt Gaynor who said,

“What do you want to fly?”

I naturally said “Day fighters!”

He said, “How old are you?”

“Twenty-three”, I said.

“TWENTY THREE?? That’s far too old to fly fighters, I‘ll put you down for instructor”

We had quite an argument and he eventually agreed to arrange for an interview with the Wing Commander OC Flying, so I duly presented myself to the Wingco’s office and I’d scarcely got in the door before he started on me. The gist of his speech was, he was amazed and disgusted that I should question his authority. Did I presume to know better than he did what the RAF required? Never, according to him, had anyone been audacious enough to say they didn’t want to be an instructor. I should consider it an honour to be chosen as an instructor at my age. I thanked him for his time and said I’d take it up at the next station. Anyway, a couple of days later, Gaynor came rushing down to see me.

“Robbie, would you like to be a night-fighter pilot?”

I said “Yes, too true, I’ll do anything rather than be an instructor.”

Apparently one chap had been put down as night-fighter pilot and wasn’t at all keen and wanted to be an instructor and so happily got switched.

The Wings ceremony was something I shall never forget, maybe due to the fact that we didn’t have one! My friend the Wing Commander gave us a short talk after we’d finished our course, congratulating us on becoming pilots and then told us we’d collect our wings from the stores, which we did, and got them sown on, together with our Sergeant stripes. Frankly I couldn’t have cared less who gave me my wings, just so long as I got them, they were on my uniform and I was a Sergeant Pilot!
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 15:13
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Wings parade.

In contrast, could I remind you of the way it was handled in America ? American relatives friends, and girl friends, came from far away . Group Captain Cunningham flew in , in a Mustang, seconds before the presentation, and presented the wings personally to each cadet.

But, I agree with F/L R.J.H , to us it didn't really matter how we received them.
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 16:01
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yes Cliff but.......................

The Arnold scheme was sort of mass production of wings as there were 100 on each course (each month?) and eventually most passed, so a G/C could work in batches?
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 16:07
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kookabat

you said:-

"Reg the last photo posted by Andy reminds me a little of a few studio portraits I've seen of Phil Smith, the pilot of my great uncle's crew. One was taken shortly after he arrived in England (from Australia) and shows a strikingly young, very fresh-faced Phil. Photos taken just a couple of years later - after a tour on Wellingtons then a second on Lancasters, and a four-month long evasion in occupied France - show a much older and wiser man. "

Yes I have to agree, most pilots seemed to have aged 10 yrs after their tour, I have mentioned this to Reg many times that the stress shows in their faces.

Much like our dear Prime Ministers, after a term in office seem to also age 10yrs!
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 17:08
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I'm sitting here looking at a picture of my own graduation, shaking hands with an AVM, commissioning scroll in left hand, velcro-fastened 'N' brevet dangling off my No1!!

When I got back to my room in the mess, my batwoman, unbeknownst to me, had already sewn another brevet onto my No2. Girlfriend re-sewed the No1 with a silver coin behind it a day later . . . .
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 17:33
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Andy re Photos

The Arnold scheme certainly produced a lot of desperately needed Pilots but was far from being a "Mass Production". Of the 500 "Arnold cadets who formed the first (42A) class about 230 got their silver wings which were tough to get and, in the majority of cases, deeply cherished. Our Wings presentation was also a ceremony that I shall always remember with virtually the whole little town of Albany present to witness the solemn presentation of those solid silver wings , together with a beautifully inscribed Diploma which reads , " United States Army, (Underneath which is a drawing of the Wings) Southeast Air Corps Training Center... Be it known that (In my case ) L.A.C. Reginald Levy, Royal Air Force, has satisfactorily completed the course for Pilots in the Southeast Air Corps Training Center. In testimony whereof and by virtue of vested authority I do confer upon him this DIPLOMA Given at Turner Field, Ga. this 3rd. day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and Forty-Two WALTER R. WEAVER, Major General, U.S. Army. Commanding, Southeast Air Corps Training Center. " This, framed , hangs behind me at the moment and is one of my most cherished posessions. Regrettably the wings that were pinned on my chest by said General Weaver were stolen when I returned to England but were replaced by my best friend who shall remain nameless but I think that you will know who it is.

The terrific "Ball"... that followed in the lush Georgia evening with the First Class Army Air Corps band swinging away with "Amapola", "Elmer's tune"," You are my Sunshine", Chatanooga Coo Choo" .... You name it they played it , will live in my memory forever. Never have girls been so beautiful and never has life been so wonderful. I was nineteen and some months old and I was the happiest adolescent in the world.
This Forum is all about "Gaining the pilot's brevet and I maintain that the achievement of so doing should be marked with something for you to remember all your life.
 
Old 15th Oct 2009, 18:13
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I have followed this thread with much interest and all of a sudden see reference to ABERYSTWYTH! Just happens to be where I live.
Recent events in one of the seafront hotels (Belle View Royal) have uncovered a load of wartime drawings under layers of wall paper which were discovered during renovations. Loads of pictures of aircraft and the sillouettes of "enemy" aircraft. It is thought that airmen billeted there during the war drew on the walls as a way of revising for tests!
The article was covered by the local paper and quite a bit put on the web before the rooms were redecorated.
Keep this thread going as it is really very interesting!
BBC NEWS | UK | Wales | Mid Wales | RAF war drawings found at hotel
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 18:58
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Cliff & Reg Flying memories.

This is bloody marvellous stuff gents.

Thanks and keep it coming please.

IC
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 19:35
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The documentary "Night Bombers" - 1944 (in Colour)

Hi Guys,

Been reading this thread for a while, but can't remember if this film has been mentioned before. Apologies if it has, but probably worth a repost anyway. It runs for about an hour and the blurb below pretty much covers it.

Keep up the good work - this thread is a highlight of Pprune!

Link here;- Night Bombers

Regards,

Footpad6




A unique record of the nightly air raids made on Germany during World War II. There are no actors – this is the real thing as it happened. Contains rare archive colour footage from No. 1 Group, Royal Air Force, in action, winter 1943. In the winter of 1943, RAF Bomber Command was sending massive raids almost every night into the heart of Germany. This is the story of one of them, an attack on Berlin, probably the most heavily defended target of them all and one which made terrible demands on the courage of the aircrew. On the long, cold and desperately dangerous missions over Northern Germany and back to a difficult landing in wintry England, thousands of men died or suffered ghastly injuries. One must imagine that they were terrified much of the time, but there is very little sign of doubt or anxiety on the brave faces in Iliffe Cozens’ film. Although certain scenes had to be re-created for technical reasons, make no mistake, the raid is a real one and there are no actors.
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Old 15th Oct 2009, 22:47
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To Jimgriff with love...

If you look up my thread No.270 on page 14 you will see that I was actually billeted, with the rest of 'B' Flight, in the Marine hotel . In a beautiful position, right on the Sea front, turn right out, after coming down the steps and keep right on at a brisk pace for the morning trot up Constitution Hill which was an euphemism for Heart Attack Mountain. ! We had a long stay in lovely Aber which is described in that previous thread. I vaguely remember some of us drawing on the walls as there was a very good artist amongst us but, unfortunately, I don't recall his name but he did draw aircraft to help with the "Aircraft Recognition course" which consisted of silhouettes of British and German aircraft of that period being flashed for a split second on a screen and we had to quickly jot down it's name . It would certainly be whilst iIwas there as the aircraft you have shown were of that period i;e A Stirling and what looks like a "Wimpy" that has well and truly partaken of the hamburger loving character, in the "Daily Mirror", J.Wellington Wimpy, that it was fondly nicknamed after.
I have often thought of going back there for "Auld Lang Syne" but have not done so. I think that the axiom "Never go back" is fairly correct. Anyway, "Thanks for the memories." Reg
 
Old 16th Oct 2009, 10:11
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 9.

Hawarden, 57 Spitfire OTU – July 1941


We were given a weeks leave and went home to await the telegram, sending us off to the OTU. At that time Derek and Kay had a flat at 45 Gunterstone Road, West Kensington, which is, as you probably know, just behind the block of flats where you stayed when you were with IBM. We spent most of the time popping up and down to Town. Jack Ranger and I would meet Derek and Kay, do a round of the pubs, and either stay at Dereks’ or wander back home. Eventually, my telegram arrived, so I phoned them up to find out whether they had received telegrams. Derek was going to be an instructor anyway, but we thought we’d more or less go at the same time. But when I spoke to Jack Ranger and told him I was going to Hawarden, he said

“They were flying Spitfires up there, my brother was up there.”

I said they can’t be because we were supposed to be going on night-fighters, and they were Day. Anyway, I got my gear together and Mum (Connie R********, nee F*****) came and saw me off at Kings Cross and I said cheerio and away I went.

When I got to Hawarden I found that there was only about half a dozen of us who had come off Oxfords and the remainder had all been flying Masters, so they naturally had quite an advantage over us. We had to do a transfer course so that we could get some idea of a single-engined aircraft and the three instructors we had were Flying Officer Mitchell, Flight Lieutenant Freeborn and Flight Lieutenant Watkins. Freeborne was an ex-74 Sqn pilot, had a DFC and bar. Watkins was known as Derby Watkins and he was a great character, and he was the one who sent me off on solo. I did three hours and ten minutes dual on the Master and four hours and ten minutes solo and then on August 1st 1941 I was put in a Spitfire.

In those days there was no dual instruction on a Spitfire, it was all theory until we were told to get in and fly the thing. We had a Spitfire jacked up in a hangar, and this was wired-up in such a way that you could operate the flaps, the undercarriage and naturally, the ailerons and tail. We also did hours under the trainer which was used at BFTS (Basic Flying Training School) and SFTS (Spitfire Flying Training School). It’s difficult to explain what it was like to have my first flight in the Spitfire, because in all the other aircraft we’d flown, we’d always had an instructor with us to begin with until we were fully competent or near enough so. He would then get out and leave you to fly the aircraft yourself. With a Spitfire, you had all the theoretical knowledge, then you climbed in and the Flight Commander would lean over the cockpit and just give you a few last minute instructions, wish you good luck, and send you on your way. Now as you know, when a Spitfire is taxiing, you can’t see a thing over the front, because the engine is sticking up, so you had to taxi from side to side, waggling the tail, going along in a corkscrew sort of motion. While you’re doing this, and making sure you don’t hit anything, all sorts of things run through your mind. Like, having got so far, can you manage the Spitfire? And will you eventually come out at the end of the course alright?

Anyway, I managed to get to the end of the runway without hitting anything and having spied out the land and made sure no one was going to land on top of me, turned into wind, opened up and away I went. Now that is really some sensation. To begin with, in the old type Spitfire, you had a pump undercart, which meant that you selected “UP” when the wings lifted and you had sufficient flying speed, you then pushed the throttle fully forward, take your hand off the throttle and put it on the stick and with your right hand you’d pump like mad on the lever…….


End of tape 1.


Now on all the other aircraft I’ve flown, by the time you’d got the wheels up and were trundling along, you looked over your left shoulder and there was the aerodrome tucked in behind you. By the time I’d got the wheels up and got the rest of the cockpit check done and trimmed the aircraft, I looked round to find out where I was, I was half way to Rhyll! I made a very gentle turn and came back to the circuit, did the usual checks, undercarriage, mixture, flaps, brought it along to the upwind position and came in to land. I wouldn’t say it was the best landing I’ve ever done, but apart from a couple of bumps, I managed to bring the aircraft down and taxi back to the dispersal.

Having got the initial solo over it was merely a matter of getting as many hours in as you possibly could. We flew once or twice a day, for an hour, hour and a half each time, and began to find that the Spitfire was probably the most beautiful aircraft in the world.
It was a delight to fly, when you got to know it. It was very easy to fly and very quick on the controls. We’d do cine-gun firing, air-to-air, air-to-ground. The last bit was comical. We had a ground target not far from Rhyll, on the coast. Most of us missed the target and scared the living daylights out of the people in Rhyll, I think.

At this time we had another instructor posted to us, a Czech sergeant by the name of Sukor who I found out afterwards came from 72 Sqn., which didn’t mean a lot to me at the time. Anyway, Sukor would take us up and do formation flying and tail-chasing and so on, and we’d do our best to hang on to him, which was more than difficult, but whatever happened, we had to stay with him. And always, after whatever exercise he’d taken us on, he’d come down over the aerodrome at nought feet and belt along the perimeter track, climb up and do a roll off the top and we were supposed to try and follow him. One day he came in so low he nearly took the paint off the Group Captains’ aircraft, so that was all stopped.

After we’d done about ten or fifteen hours on Spits, we all felt as though we were budding aces, but I was brought down to earth with a bump in more ways than one. I’d been up doing formation flying earlier in the morning, came back and landed and the aircraft started to wander off to the right, as I landed. Now having got used to the Spit, where you scarcely touch anything and it whips around all over the place, I didn’t realise at the time that you could kick it about on the ground when you were taxiing and you could scarcely do any damage to it at all. Anyway, it drifted off to the right and I was using gentle left pedal to bring it back again, when nothing happened, it swung off the runway and finished up on its nose.

The Wingco Flying at this time was Wing Commander Billy Brown, DFC and bar. He’d been a pilot with 1 Sqn in France, and was a very nice chap. He listened to what I had to say about my crash and then explained that you could be a lot rougher on the ground with a Spitfire than you need to be in the air. He was quite nice about it, but my log book was endorsed with the note “Inexperience” against my entry for that day.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 12:53
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Can't believe it has taken me this long to discover this thread. Incredible stuff.

My dad died a year and half ago. In my formative years all I knew of his history was that he'd been ground crew in the RAF during the war and had served in Burma amongst other places.

I grew up with a fascination about history and was especially interested in WW2. I started to ask dad about his experiences. He initially didn't talk too much about them.

This certainly wasn't because of bad memories -- indeed, despite a few hairy moments and not being demobbed until 1947 he loved his time in the RAF. I think it was just that he thought no-one would really be interested in the tales of an erk.

But I was. For years I pestered him to write his memoirs arguing that people were fascinated by stories of the ordinary man during this tragic and dramatic time.

In his later years he came around to my way of thinking and started on his memoirs. He wrote them longhand and had reached his demob in 1947 and that was the end of Part one of his life. He was about to start on Part two but, sadly, died suddenly.

Would you be interested in seeing relevent bits of his memoirs?
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 13:38
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Angels, obviously a slow day on the cable et al if you can get through the whole thread this morning . . . . . .

As you can see from the eclectic posts, anything from your father and his time in the RAF would add to the understanding of all those interested in such things. This thread and its ilk are committing to paper and disk memories that might otherwise never see the light of day. You've mentioned afew of his escapades elsewhere, but I feel that this thread is probably their rightful place.

If it's anything like my father's contribution, I wish you luck with the transcribing - took me bloody ages, but a labour of love it certainly was.

All the best, chum!
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 14:18
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Actually been well busy on cable, but it's not my direct job now so took some time off to read from page 55 of this thread onwards. Will have to fit in the first 54 pages another time!

I'm rather hoping that my brother may already have already transcribed the memoirs, if not, I'll be well up for it.

There are various piccies as well, including one of him standing by a (USAAF) Dak in a jungle airstrip that managed to land right on top of another one! The two planes look like they're trying to make baby planes!
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 16:05
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ANGELS.

Your are more than welcome. Only an erk ? If it was't for the erks the 'job would have stopped'. Our PPrUNE friends want to know what it was like from the 'horses mouth' and historians rely on information like yours.
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Old 16th Oct 2009, 22:16
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Only an erk...

Angels. Our lives were in the hands of our ground crews and they never , knowingly ,failed us. As proof, there were always "passengers" on our Air Tests and, I know for a fact, that there had been more than two or three cases of "stowaways" on actual "Ops". They must , of course, been stark, staring, ruddy mad ! But they trusted us and we trusted them.
The Forum is healthy and I heartily endorse Cliff's acclaim and welcome. The water's lovely. Come on in. Reg. More Sabena , if you so desire , when you want. I want to give our new and so welcome 'bods a chance.
 
Old 17th Oct 2009, 06:16
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Hi Guys,

Been reading this thread for a while, but can't remember if this film has been mentioned before. Apologies if it has, but probably worth a repost anyway. It runs for about an hour and the blurb below pretty much covers it.

Keep up the good work - this thread is a highlight of PPRuNe!

Link here;- Night Bombers Documentary - FactualTV

Regards,

Footpad6
My wife and I (both in our forties with two young children) watched this film last night. I vaguely remember seeing an abridged version narrated by William Woolard of Tomorrow's World many years ago.

It really was a very moving film. Typically British, calm and understated. To think that all those young men, volunteers to a man, went through all that for our country makes me feel very proud. The whole Bomber Command organisation seems very impressive and it was all sorted using pen, paper and the telephone. Are we really that better organised with our computer technology?

I went to sleep thinking about the diverted Lancaster, with just enough petrol for one landing, on short finals to a dodgy FIDO lit flarepath. I know what it feels like to be below final reserve to a foggy airfield. But that's in a modern jet. That they sorted that out after a night bombing mission in such a basic aircraft really brings home to what they were up against.

The 22 year old Lancaster Captain featured in the film became an accountant and never flew again. Can't blame him!

More please, and do let's hear from the ground crew.
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