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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 22nd Oct 2009, 15:34
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 12.

By this time, most of us were anxious to get as many hours in on Spits as possible and we were often chatting and saying how many hours have you got and so forth and one day we asked one of the Czech pilots, Ruby, how many hours he had. He took his long cigarette holder out of his mouth and said,

“Hmm, about Too Tousant!”

He was a great chap and a terrific pilot and a great player of Cravat, which he taught me and used to take quite a bit of money off me in the process. He would also challenge people to play him at Shove Ha’penny, for sixpence a game and he would come up and say,

“We play for sixpenzz? A schillink is better!”

Long after I’d left 111 Sqn and after I’d come back from North Africa, I met up with my old Flight Commander on 111, Laurie Clifford-Brown and he told me a story of Ruby, which I don’t think has gone too far, which is probably just as well. Apparently when they were stationed at Debden, they used to do Rhubarbs, which as you probably know, are two aircraft, going into low cloud, flying across to France, nipping out of the cloud and shooting up anything you could find, nipping back into cloud and coming home. On this occasion, Ruby and The Honourable Wentworth Beaumont, or Wendy Beaumont as we used to call him, were told to go up on a Rhubarb, so they took off from Debden, flew low over the sea, then up into cloud, came down again over the sea, up to the coast, up over the cliffs and Windy saw a train, which they proceeded to shoot up then tore back into cloud and returned to Debden. When they got back, they were quite surprised to be called into the Station Commander’s office, to find out exactly what they’d done and what they’d been shooting at. So they told the station CO, they’d seen this train, shot it up. Did they do much damage? Yes, quite a bit, back into cloud, no damage to them, and got home. The only snag was, the train they’d shot up, was just off Margate!

It was obviously all hushed up, but Ruby got quite a rocket from the Station Commander. It didn’t affect him a great deal, he pretended he couldn’t understand English, which was very untrue, so they got another Czech pilot in with him and the Station Commander was blasting Ruby up hill and down dale and the other Czech pilot was translating for Ruby, who was just standing there as though he was the soul of innocence. I don’t know what happened to Wendy Beaumont, he probably got a Knighthood for it later on!

One day we were told we were going to have a coach trip to Harwich and Felixstowe to have a look over some Motor Gun Boats and corvettes and whatever else was there and see how the other half lived. It was more than interesting inasmuch as a couple of the gunboats had just come in having shot up some Jerries, just off Ostende, and they were quite pleased with life. When we started chatting to them we found that one the boats had recently picked up one of the chaps from 111 Sqn who’d baled out in the Channel, so it was all very jovial. Some of us were taken out in a corvette, where we were treated like lords by the Naval types, who gave us tins of tobacco, pounds of butter and all sorts of things that we didn’t get, but that they got Duty Free.

Coming back we were supposed to stop at Colchester station for a couple of coffees and a bun, before proceeding back to Debden or North Weald; I forget which station we came from at that time. Anyway, we went into the waiting room and then into the buffet, had our coffee and so forth, went down under the subway and got back into the coach. Now, we’d got to Colchester somewhere about half past eight and by the time we’d wined and dined there, we got back in the coach about half past nine and they found there were six people missing – all the Czech pilots. There was nothing we could do, we just had to sit there. So we sat and we sat till about half past eleven, when, lo and behold, all the six Czech pilots arrived. Naturally the Flight Commander who was in charge, did his nut, started screeching as was his wont, and it turned out that whilst we were on Colchester station and before we’d come under the subway, a train had come into Colchester and just stopped and it stood there for the best part of two hours before moving out. Now the Czechs, not knowing what to do, waited for the train to go; they knew they had to get across to the other side of the station some how or other, and when the train left, they climbed down on the railway, across the lines, up on the other platform and across and back to the coach. When the CO said,

“Why the hell didn’t you come with us?”

All they could say was, “Train in way, yes? Train in way, yes?” and that was the end of that.
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Old 22nd Oct 2009, 20:13
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Obituary of Wenty/Wendy Beaumont (cf above)

"The 3rd Viscount Allendale had an action-packed youth, reminiscent of a Boys Own Paper adventure story. He was barely 20 when, as a Second World War officer in the RAF Volunteer Reserve, and having flown 71 missions in Spitfires, in 1942 he was shot down while attacking a flak ship off Valchesen, Holland. He crash-landed and, with a badly wounded knee, was captured and spent the next three years in Stalag Luft 3."

JF - try http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/com...icle807474.ece

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Old 22nd Oct 2009, 20:57
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Getting Error 404 on that link . . .
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Old 23rd Oct 2009, 07:13
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Flight Lieutenant The Hon Wentworth Hubert Charles Beaumont — known as “Wenty” - was born in West Yorkshire, on September 12, 1922. He inherited the title Viscount Allendale and died in Northumberland on December 27, 2002, aged 80.
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Old 23rd Oct 2009, 09:30
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 13.

111 Sqn moves from North Weald to Debden – November 1941

In November we moved from North Weald to Debden. No one was particularly pleased about it. I certainly wasn’t, because it was a long hike from Debden to Woodford, whereas from North Weald it was a piece of cake. Anyway, we were there and that was that. By this time I was sharing a room with Tony Johanson**, the only Icelandic pilot in the Air Force and the papers made a big thing of him. He was always being asked to go out to his aircraft and stand there and pose for pictures and we got inundated with pictures of Tony Johanson. There’d be Tony Johanson, standing on the wing, looking out for enemy aircraft, Tony Johanson taking off, Tony Johanson landing. He used to get the Mickey taken out of him like mad, but he was an awfully nice bloke, very quiet and he thought these paper antics a bit much, but he had to put up with it for the sake of the publicity.

I’d said what a bind it was getting from Debden back to Woodford. Well one day I got away fairly early in the evening and caught the train I hoped would get me back to Woodford fairly well. Anyway, by the time I’d got up to London and back again to Woodford, it had gone half past ten at night. There were no lights on at 76 Kings Avenue and I knew Mum was in bed at the back, so I went round the side and kept flinging my hat up at the window to wake her up. I didn’t wake her, I woke Ferdie, (Ferdie F*****n, FAF, father-in-law-to-be-of RJHR) who came along to find out what the noise was. Anyway, I saw Mum for a little time, I think we had a cup of tea or something and at about 11 or 12, I started coming back to Debden. I missed all the trains that would have got me there and I eventually got the first train to the nearest station to Debden about five o’clock in the morning from Liverpool Street, hitch-hiked from the station to the aerodrome, got there just in time for breakfast.

In 1993 I was working for IBM in their London offices at South Bank, just by Waterloo. I had a very pleasant, modern office, overlooking the Thames, with floor to ceiling glass walls on the inside. When I moved there I took a number of photographs with me to brighten up my environs. Family shot, an F-4, naturally, and a picture of my father shaking hands with King George VI at Biggin Hill in 1942. Somewhat incongruous, I know, given the plethora of PCs and other hi-tech kit that abounded. One day a chum of mine, Malcolm Lillie, was visiting the floor and noticed the photos. He popped his head round the door and asked about them, "Who's that, then, JF?" When I explained, he said, "My uncle was at Biggin Hill about then, ask your Old Man if he ever came across him? He was the only Icelander to fly in the RAF!"
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Old 24th Oct 2009, 15:09
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Let's take this Icelandic coincidence a little further....Back in the 1960's and 70's when I was flying Sabena 707's down to Leopoldville, as the Belgian Congo capital was then known, we used to see quite a lot of the Air Congo Pilots who were permanently based there to fly the internal flights . They were employed by Sabena who ran "Air Congo" but, much as they tried , were never considered as being on the Brussels based Seniority list, but were purely locally engaged on seperate contracts which were very generous.

We were very friendly with most of them and I was particularly friendly with ....you have guessed it,...the only Icelandic Pilot and his Wife. He was always known as Tony Johnsson but could well have been your Father's friend . I think that you have said that it is from taped recordings that you have given us the pleasure of sharing these wonderful and poignant memories so Johnson would sound like the spelling that you have given to what must have been the same man. I had often been to their place in Leo and shared many a liquid evening with them As I recall, his Wife was the daughter of a very high Icelandic dignitary: he could have been the Mayor of Reykjavik. I can't say that I remember anything of what he used to tell us about his R.A.F. days but I do know that he served with the RAF. Small World , eh ? All the best , Reg L.
Old 24th Oct 2009, 18:43
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First flight in a Spitfire

As I have explained in a previous post I transferred fro the RAF to the Fleet Air Arm.

I guess my first flight in a Spitfire was much the same as yours. Rather frightening hurtling along the runway with no instructor but things happened so quickly there was no time to worry. For several weeks I was still in the RAF but eventually the transfer came through and I was posted to RNAS Henstridge and practised dummy deck landings. Half a dozen black lines painted across the runway to simulate arrestor wire and a batman guiding you down.

Then came the strangest flight I ever made, a back to front affair Train journey to Ayr where half a dozen of us were allocated Seafires. Flew out to sea and found an Escort Carrier. We all landed successfully and then took off from the carrier. Most unusual that the first flight was a landing and then a take off.

The Spitfire was certainly a wonderful aircraft to fly. I felt that I was part of the aircraft - lean to the left and the aircraft turned left, lean back and the aircraft climbed. One advantage of flying from a carrier was not having to zig zag when taxying. No taxying necessary and no fear of boiling the coolant.

Gordon Davis
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Old 24th Oct 2009, 20:26
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 14.

Again, a lengthy extract, including some previously posted material. I have included it so as to keep the continuity of the memoirs

Posted to 72 Sqn – December 1941, Gravesend

We drew for Christmas leave and I was lucky enough to get it. One of the reasons, I think, that I was posted to 72 Sqn, was because at that time they’d gone through a rough patch and had lost a number of pilots and were going round 11 Group trying to scrape up some more. So two of us were posted from 111 to 72, which meant I didn’t get my Christmas leave.

I wasn’t particularly experienced, as you can imagine, by this time, but in any case, when you had to post someone from your Squadron, you never give the best pilots you’ve got, you always find some reason to give them, to whoever is asking, a pilot who has either just reported to you that week or been with you a fortnight. This happened to me in reverse later on.

The two of us who had been posted had our gear stowed in a 15cwt truck and were driven off to Gravesend, where 72 were based. I met the CO, Sqn Ldr Masterman who was quite a reasonable chap, but not exactly a ball of fire when it came to air-fighting. The Sergeant Pilots at that time were billeted in a large house called Polperro on the main Gravesend to Rochester Road and I shared a room with two really old sweats, Flight Sergeant Jack Hilton and Flight Sergeant Jim Norton. Jack was King of the groundstaff and Jim was the armaments chap and when I got into the room, there they were both, sitting on their beds, polishing like mad. I think they were the only two I ever saw on the squadron who had shiny buttons, shiny cap-badges and boots all polished. The rest of us used to wander around in flying boots and battle-dress, where we had no shiny buttons to polish.

Things were fairly quiet for the first fortnight or so. We did a couple of Channel sweeps and escorted some Hurri-bombers to Dunkirk, but there was no flak, no excitement. But at least we got used to flying across the Channel and looking for aircraft and even if nothing happened, at least your confidence was gradually beginning to get established.

An Eventful Christmas – 2 Spitfires damaged . . .

At that time there had been some trouble with bolts on the aircraft and they had to be sent back to either Brize Norton or South Cerney for checking, so on Christmas Eve, with another Canadian chap, I flew to South Cerney to have the aircraft checked over. I landed, no bunts, quite smooth, all going when all of a sudden I saw my port leg disappear behind me and the aircraft came to a grinding halt, fortunately not damaging the prop and very little damage to the port wing. I felt a right idiot sitting there, wondering what I had done. I eventually got back to the control tower, phoned Gravesend, spoke to the flight commander. The first thing he asked me was had I damaged the prop and I said no, so he said, well you’d better come back. So I hiked the parachute out of the aircraft, was given a parachute bag and a pass, and told to get back to Gravesend, which was great on Christmas Eve!

Anyway, I got to the station and eventually got back to Gravesend quite late at night. I wasn’t at all happy about explaining everything to the Flight Commander the following day. He seemed to think I was a bit of an idiot and I couldn’t think what I had done wrong. Anyway, the next day being Christmas Day, they decided I’d do the whole trip again. So the following day I got in another aircraft that had to be checked and flew it into Brize Norton. I got the aircraft checked over and came back to Gravesend.

Now Gravesend was a funny sort of aerodrome. It’s all grass and it ran down towards the river and there was large patch in the middle which we didn’t use. It was roped off because the ground was so bad. Anyway, I landed alright, all the wheels were down, the tail-wheel was down, shut the throttle, pulled back on the stick, put the brake on and nothing happened. I worked furiously at the foot-pedals to waggle the tail to and fro in the hope of making at least some impression on the brakes and nothing happened at all and it trundled very gently to the end of the grass, over the perimeter track and then there was a bit of building going on on the other side, got to the rough bit of ground, then tipped gently onto its nose.

It didn’t do a lot of damage, but I felt a bit of an idiot, especially when the CO and half the squadron came galloping round the perimeter track to look at me and help me get out of the aircraft, which was on end. I wasn’t particularly popular with everybody at the time and I must admit I felt a bit miserable. I still couldn’t see what I had done wrong and for two or three days after that, I lay in bed wondering what the hell was the matter. At any rate I couldn’t understand why the leg had come off, because all the lights had shown the legs were securely fastened. The two little tabs that come up on either side of the cockpit by the edge of the wing, to show the wheels were locked and down and that should have been alright.

Now so far as the Gravesend effort was concerned, I knew I’d pulled the brake handle as tight as I could and I went and checked one of the aircraft and the answer came in a flash. I rushed to a phone and got hold of the engineering officer, explained what I thought had happened, and he was quite a decent chap. He came up, had a look at the aircraft and I was proved right, I was glad to say.

What had happened was, you probably know on a Spit, you have a control column with a large ring at the top on which you have the gun-button on the top left, a camera gun-button just to the right of it and a brake handle comes down the centre of the middle of the ring, so when you hold it with your right hand, you stretch your fingers across, grab the brake handle and pull. Now, what had happened was that they’d run the wire from the camera gun button, instead of round the rim of the top of the handle, they’d brought it straight down. Consequently, when you heaved on the brake handle, the base of the brake handle, instead of going right across to the far side of the ring, caught onto the wire, was held tight and whilst you were putting on full pressure and thinking you were holding the brakes full on, they were scarcely on at all. So they checked all the other aircraft and found two or three other cases. It could have happened at any time at all, to anybody, so I was absolved of all blame there and patted on the head.

So far as the wheel coming off at South Cerney was concerned, they decided to check all the undercarts of the aircraft on the squadron, and found that the locking nut, which is something like a door lock with a chamfered edge. This locking nut, or pin, or bolt or whatever, had become worn and although all the instruments stated that the legs were fully down and locked, because the locking nut was in its right position, having been worn, it didn’t hold the leg tight. Consequently, once pressure was put on it, the leg just collapsed, because there was nothing to hold it. So, again, all was well, but I must admit, I had a very miserable two or three days, especially having just joined the squadron.
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Old 27th Oct 2009, 16:22
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A little bit more

My own French was not improving, mainly because my entire crew took great pleasure in speaking English. Jean Brion, the Radio, Jonny Jonniaux, the Navigator, Henri Crama, the fatherly Engineer were the nicest people that you could meet and treated me with the utmost courtesy and good humour. I cannot stress enough how well received the British were at that time. We were really regarded as the true liberators of the country and the old fashioned concepts of the "British Gentleman" and "an Englishman's word is his bond" still existed in Belgium of 1952.

I flew nearly two years as First Officer with Serge Tabutaut and learned a lot including, for a brief spell, how to legitimately double your money. Once, in Leopoldville, the day before departure, Serge said to me " Bring 500frs. to the bank with me tomorrow."" That was quite a lot of miney then and we British First Officers were always broke.. One of the ways that we all existed was through the "carnet d'avances" that we all had. The Congolese franc was always at par with the Belgian Franc so you could get an advance on your salary with Sabena in the Congo which would be changed at par at Brussels and would take several weeks to get through and sometimes, with a bit of luck, got lost completely. When you were scheduled to go to the Congo there would always be a lot of British F/o's waiting to see you off with their slips, duly signed from the carnet for you to bring them the money to see them through the rest of the month. Anyway I duly borrowed the 500 Frs. and went with Serge to the bank where he asked for their value in "Congolese, Leopold the First ,one franc pieces". These were huge coins with a hole in the middle and weighed a ton. We staggered back to the infamous Sabena Guest House where the crews stayed; I was mystified. Serge told me that all would be revealed on the flight back to Brussels. The first stop was Kano. It was already night and for once, the runway lights were working. There had been times when the lights would go out whilst you were on the approach and it was because the Nigerian rats loved the rubber which surrounded the wiring and were eating through them and the wires. We staggered with our Leopold francs to the outside of the ancient Terminal building where, under the light of naptha lamps , several Arab traders were squatting surrounded by charm bracelets and other souvenirs. We deposited our burdens in front of them and ,without any haggling, we were promptly given 1000 B.Frs each in notes. Evidently the silver content of the coins was so great that it was worth more than the coin itself and the Arabs would beat them down and make silver trinkets of them. Unfortunately the coin was so large and unwieldy, it was withdrawn from circulation so that the ,quite legitimate, racket came to an end.

I referred to the "infamous" Sabena Guest house at Leo. as Leopoldville was always known,. It was not the most comfortable place but it was owned by Sabena so the crews stayed there. There was no such thing as a meal allowance but three meals a day were paid for by the Company. The predictable result was that everyone ate their three meals instead of saving on their allowances. This proved very bad for the health and there was gross overweight amongst many of the crews. When you ordered a steak, the Congolese waiter would yell "Steak, equipage" (Crew Steak) to the kitchen and the result would often tell why. Crews were only on very rare (no pun intended) occasions served the best steaks. This situation went on for some time but we were eventually given proper meal allowances and moved to the Hotel Memling which was infinitely better than the Guest House.

Sabena had one or two service a week to New York on D.C.4's . Although my Captain was one of the most Senior, he had been left off the New york sector after an incident when Sabena based some crews in Hawaii to take part in an "Air Lift" ferrying military personnel to and from Korea when that war was raging. There had been a big parade which had been interrupted by an aeroplane "beating up" the parade ground. Unfortunately the ceremony was being broadcast and the Commentator had given a graphic description of the beat up "The aeroplane is so low that I can see in the cockpit and I can see the letters OO..etc. etc."
Eventually , however, he served out his sentence and we were put on the coveted New York run. The flights, invariably went by Shannon and Gander, due to the limited range of the D.C.4. Passengers were rare. I have been on flights that went with one or two passengers and then returned empty. It was on such a flight that a Steward came up to the cockpit and announced "We have 150 oysters on board and our passenger does'nt like them." "Bring them up here" said our Captain. and we scoffed the lot.

The system of promotion in Sabena was very fair. Providing that you passed the very strict and probing examinations on the new aircraft and you were eligible to fly it then the seniority list was faithfully adhered to. You started your career as a First officer , flying D.C.3's on freight in Europe. and then progressed all the way up on the various aircraft used, each of which paid increasing rates, until you reached the top as First Officer flying four engined aircraft on the Atalantic. When your turn came then you started the whole procedure again as a freight Capt on D.C.3's in Europe. The aircraft , in question, at that time were D.C.3,s,
Convairs,later Caravelles and D.C.4's and D.C.6's on Europe and the Middle East . The Long courier was on D.C.4's,D.C.6's and later, D.C.7cs, Boeing 707's. D.C.10's and Boeing 747's .

The most unpopular was the beginning, flying freight on draughty "Dakota's" in the early hours of the morning all over Europe. One of the chores was flying hundreds of pigeons all over Europe in the middle of the night. The pigeons would be released from small aerodromes, some of them only just bigger than a field, by the two "conveyeurs" that you carried with the pigeons. Large sums of money would change hands on the results of the ensuing race home. Apart from the unsocial hours of these flights the smell of pigeons was very hard to get rid of and hung over you for days afterwards. To make matters worse, Sabena secured a contract to fly hundreds of pedigree pigs from Blackbushe , in England, to Belgrade, in Jugo-Slavia. It was on one of those flights,on June 4th.1954 when I was a Freight Captain following another Sabena Freighter to Belgrade that I heard the Captain, my colleague and friend, Dougie Wilson, calling "Mayday" over Graz, in Austria. I was about fifteen minutes behind him and he had possibly strayed out of the corridor, laid down by
Russia and had been attacked by a Russian MIG, killing the Radio officer, wounding the other Freight Captain and Doug had made a very creditable landing at Graz without flaps or brakes as the hydraulics had been put out of action. I continued on to Zagreb where everyone was very upset about the incident and treated us very well indeed. The resultant return of the unfortunate Radio Officer in a sealed coffin and an unpressurised aircraft is another story that could have had nasty results with the Alps standing in the way but, fortunately the crew realised this in time and flew all up the valley of the Rhone instead. I hope that I still have some of you with me, I seem to have been here all afternoon. Reg.

Last edited by regle; 27th Oct 2009 at 17:24.
Old 27th Oct 2009, 16:49
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Very rare painting of Reg

I came across this very rare and valuable Andy Warhol painting of Reg thought you might like to see it:-

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Old 27th Oct 2009, 17:59
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Really interesting stuff. I was surprised that when a First Officer you were rostered with the same Captain all the time. How long did that go on for? Would not happen these days for sure.
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Old 27th Oct 2009, 19:39
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>>The resultant return of the unfortunate Radio Officer in a sealed coffin and an unpressurised aircraft is another story that could have had nasty results with the Alps standing in the way but, fortunately the crew realised this in time and flew all up the valley of the Rhone instead. <<

I have just worked that one out - Yuk!
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Old 27th Oct 2009, 20:07
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Response to Regle of 6th Oct 09

In response to Regle's post of 6th October at 18:18 - I will certain pass on that info to Dad (Sandy Sandison - ex-Lanc pilot and Sdn Ldr). I'll be at the RAF Club with him on Saturday for 619 Squadron's annual reunion lunch, and will be taking sheaves of print-outs from the Forum to share with everyone there. You'll no doubt be pleased to hear that Dad won the Wednesday points series this year in Poole helming an X One Design boat. Not bad at 89!
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Old 27th Oct 2009, 20:39
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 15.

Bob Tuck vents his wrath on the RAF and the Luftwaffe.

At the end of December we were given a convoy job, so in company with a flight from 124 Sqn, led by Sqn Ldr Duke Willis, we flew down to Manston, refuelled, and took off in flights over this convoy, which turned out to be, as far as we could see, a mine-sweeping job. We were miles and miles out into the North Sea, very nearly Sweden I think we got to. We couldn’t stay out there very long, but we stooged out there for about an hour and a half. There’d be four of us each time, and we’d wait until the next four came to take over, then we fly back to Manston, land and pop back to Gravesend.

Gravesend was a satellite to Biggin Hill, where the Wing Commander Flying was Bob Tuck and he used to come down to Manston with us and sometimes pop out with us on this convoy patrol just to see if anything was happening. He was very good inasmuch as we’d get to Manston, early in the morning, and if coffee and sandwiches weren’t ready he’d get on the blower to the Station Commander, the Station Adj, everybody down to the lowest AC2 (Aircraftsman Second Class, the lowest rank in the Royal Air Force), just to make sure that his aircrew were looked after and we thought an awful lot of him. There was one occasion when all the aircraft had landed and were lined up and one of the radio mechanics decided, as was usual, to check each aircrafts’ radio. Now the normal thing is for the mechanic to pick up a helmet, then go along the aircraft testing all the time. There was only one snag, the aircraft parked immediately outside dispersal happened to be Bob Tucks. He tried the first aircraft, that was alright, so he took the helmet off the seat where Bob had left it and proceeded to check all the other aircraft, which was great until Bob Tuck decided he was going to fly and then he couldn’t find his helmet. When it was discovered what had happened, Bobs rage was a joy to watch, so long as it wasn’t directed at you! He fairly screamed and jumped, shouted at the top of his voice,

”Don’t let me get near the barstard, I’ll kill him!”

Anyway, he got his helmet back, flew off with the others, and all was well.

It’s been said that Bob Tuck was a very lucky flier. Well, he probably was. But he was also very good. On one occasion he was sitting in our dispersal with us and we’d just landed. Another flight were due to take off to pick up from the flight that had relieved us and Bob thought that he’d go and join them. So he ambled along, making a section of five as opposed to four, and on all the times we’d flown over this convoy business, we hadn’t seen a thing. Nothing had come near us, nothing had been reported. We were just stooging round and round the North Sea. Anyway, on the occasion that Bob decided to fly out and see what was happening, he went with Duke Woolley and a few others. Just as they arrived over the convoy, that made nine Spitfires, a Ju88 decided to have a look at the convoy and needless to say it was shot down by Duke Woolley and Bob Tuck.

Once, when we were coming back from the convoy to land at Manston, the weather closed in and there was thick fog up to 1500’ and we all got a case of the jitters, and were imagining we’d have to bail out, because we couldn’t see a thing. The flight commander, Campbell, who was leading us, asked Manston to shoot up flares, so we’d get some idea where Manston was. They shot up quite a few flares and we actually saw one red one, coming to the top of the clag and Campbell, apparently, could see a lot better than we could, said “Well, follow me!” and we all piled in and flew very close to him until eventually, one by one, he got us down to Manston. Campbell didn’t land himself, he’d come down with each one, fly around, pick up the next chap, bring him in, let him land and fly off again. Well, I was last but one to go in and I couldn’t really see a thing and I started to land, and I thought better of it, so I opened up and went round again. He was cursing like the clappers because he thought he’d got us all in by then. Anyway, I went round again, and I eventually did land, but I still couldn’t see much. I was highly delighted to get down in one piece. The last chap didn’t even make it, he crash-landed just outside Manston, but he got away with it. For that and various other things, Campbell was given a DFC.

72 Sqn – January 1942

January was a pretty quiet month. For one thing the weather was grim and there wasn’t much chance of getting any enemy aircraft up, even if you went across the Channel. I only did twelve and a half hours, of which five and a half were operational. At least a couple of convoy patrols and a bit of a short sweep up and down the Channel and home again. I did some cine-gun practice with Sgt Larry Robillard who was a French-Canadian. He’d been shot down earlier in 1941 near Lille and he managed to escape, come through France via Paris, got to Spain, got brought back again. He’d shot down two or three and had a DFM. He was a dark-haired chap and talked nineteen to the dozen, most of the day. Also at that time, we had an Australian Sgt pilot with us, Al Hake, who was a very monosyllabic character, who used to speak about three times a week. The longest speech he ever made was one day when Robillard was nattering on as usual and Al had been sitting there saying nothing, suddenly turned round and said

“For Christ’s sake, shut up Robillard!”

We were so staggered that Al had actually managed to put two or three words together, that we rolled about laughing. But at least it shut Robillard up.

Al had just been given his commission in early 42 when he was shot down over France. He managed to bail out and was sent to the prison camp from which 50 officers escaped and Al unfortunately was one of those shot by the Gestapo. (Stalag Luft 3, immortalised in the film, “The Great Escape”).

During the bad weather Sqn Ldr Masterman did his best to keep up morale, and as I’ve said he was no great shakes as a flying CO and leader, but he always had the interest of the Squadron at heart and arranged football matches, shooting, shove ha’penny and darts competitions. He also ran a sweep on who would prang the next aircraft. Our names were put in a hat and selected and everybody was hoping to get me inasmuch as I had pranged two aircraft on two separate occasions at the end of 1941. I got Daniel who later became CO of 72 in Tunisia and, lo and behold, Daniel was the first one to crack up an aircraft after the competition started and whilst I was delighted and won two or three pounds, Daniel was most upset and he and I never really got on after that.

I’ve already mentioned the square in the middle of Gravesend aerodrome which was unusable, so Masterman decided that he’d put a target in there and we’d do ground to air firing and he would do the first run. We all stood around watching him come down and open up, but none of us had really considered that you’re likely to get the odd ricochet, and before we knew where we were, there were ricochets all over the place, so we all took shelter and that was the end of the air to ground firing.

We used to have normally one day off a week which ran from 1 o’clock on one day to 1 o’clock the next and on the 28th January I was due to have a day release from 1 o’clock and at half past twelve, Bob Tuck decided to do a sweep and I was on it, which irritated me a bit inasmuch as I thought, well, I’m not going to get back here by 1 o’clock, and by the time I’d got up to London I shall lose half my day release. Anyway, we took off and tore up and down the Channel, Bob Tuck demanding information from base as to what was happening and nothing was, so we just tore up and down the Channel for about a quarter of an hour and eventually came back again. The minute I landed I took off for London on my day off and when I came back on the 29th I was staggered to hear that Bob Tuck, having got fed up with nothing happening on the sweep, had decided to do a
Rhubarb with another chap from Biggin Hill and he’d been shot down by flak over France. We simply couldn’t believe it.
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Old 27th Oct 2009, 22:50
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Re the Sabena DC3 Shoot-down. As reported in the press at the time.

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Old 28th Oct 2009, 07:51
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Terri, Sandy.

Let me introduce you to Terri, the latest contributor to pprune. When I was training in the States with the first class, 42A, of RAF cadets to be trained by the US Army Air Corps, as it was then, in early 1941, before the "day of infamy" when Pearl harbour was attacked by the Japanese on Dec.7th of that year, Sandy Sandison, Terri's Father was a fellow cadet and I knew him well. He had a very distinguished career with Bomber Command on Lancasters and when he was awarded the D.F.C. had the rare, if not unique, experience of seeing his whole crew decorated to mark the recognition of the valour of his tour of operations. He was to continue his flying career with BOAC, as it was then, later British Airways and finally retired to carry on with his love of sailing at which he has just showed us all that 89 is not too old to win trophies. Unfortunately this skill does not extend to computers...although I suspect that, like so many of us, he just does'nt trust the d.......d thing ! but his Daughter has faithfully kept him up to date with all the fun and games that go on, with print outs where they are relevant. I think that we can all take heart from this. I wish that we could have known as much about our Parents and Grandparents as this generation can, through Forums and other means such as the very keen interest in searching out our ancestry, that is now within our reach. I never knew a Grandfather as they were both dead before I was born. We didn't live as long those days. Now entire families are learning about the trials and tribulations that our Parents and Grandparents went through and also, I hasten to add, the very good times as well. I think that some eyebrows have been raised when details of the Mess parties and "snogging" behind the NAAFI have been revealed.
So welcome Terri and let us hear more about the family reactions that are so relevant to this forum. People like you ,Cliff, John Fairr and others are so important to keep these memories alive. Reg
Old 28th Oct 2009, 16:34
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I obviously can’t remember what happened on each trip to Pomigliano, but I do remember certain incidents, not necessarily in chronological order, which happened. One such incident was when Paddy , our navigator and I, hitch hiked to Salerno We wanted to view the beautiful vista along the Amalfi coast, and Capri, then have an evening on the vino. When we arrived we found we had spent all our money, on cameos , wine, and fruit, all of which were packed away in four gallon petrol tins and left in our hotel. The ever enterprising Paddy had a solution. When the next street urchin approached with the usual “Hey Johnny you sell English pound notes ?” Paddy told him we had none, but he was willing to sell him his vest. The deal was done, Paddy removed his vest, received more than enough Liras for a night out, which would include a few bottles of vino , and a large Italian omelette.

On another trip, our skipper came to some arrangement ( a weeks holiday package deal ?)with an army lieutenant ,who was on leave in Naples. The deal was to take him to Hemswell , and one week later to return him to Pomigliano. Unfortunately we had a ‘clamp on’ for two days, and could not take off.We had to hide and feed him for the two days, which was not too difficult as every thing was ‘easy come , easy go’ after V.E Day. A very worried army officer was eventually returned , and was slightly happier at being A.W.O.L in the right country, rather than A.W.O.L in the wrong country.

Whilst returning on another day , we were half way across the Med, when I sensed I slight change in engine noise , and though It was not time to check gauges , I decided to check. The gauges for one Merlin showed the temperature was rising and the oil pressure dropping, so I advised the skipper that we should shut it down and feather the prop. This was done and I increased boost and revs to maintain the original air speed. Then followed a long discussion,( I wouldn’t call it an argument). The rules were , less than half way turn back, more than half way , carry on and we were well short of halfway Unfortunately we had a skipper who had just met a beautiful ‘popsy’ in Gainsboro and a navigator who wanted to stick by the rules. The skipper had a date that night, and thought that if he didn’t turn up then **********? While the discussion progressed , much to your disgust, I decided to ‘work a flanker’. When calculating fuel consumption the method is to calculate consumption on one engine taking into consideration , boost, and revs, then multiply by four. I made a ’mistake’ and instead of multiplying the increased consumption on three engines , multiplied by four. Proving we did not have enough fuel to reach Glatton. I gave my pad containing the figures to the skipper, and he approved them and decided to fly the reciprocal.
On the approach to Pomigliano, I could imagine the skipper thinking about our recent training on three engine landings , and the advice that it was better to hit the end of the airfield , rather than the beginning. We came in fast, faster than the normal one hundred and forty five knots , prior to funnels, then seventy five knots stall out just at the beginning of the runway. (The navigator always read out the airspeed so all could hear, when we were on the approach). We were still airborne a quarter of the way down the runway, when the skipper decided to touch down, we then shot back up again, about fifty feet, which repeated three times with ever reducing height. The skipper then applied full brake, and the Lancaster decided to shoot of the runway towards an airfield control mobile cabin. I can still remember the occupant jumping out and running fast enough to win a gold medal. We did stop just a few feet away from the cabin Amazingly our twenty soldiers happily disembarked , but one of them remarked to me he didn’t realise how bumpy landing was.

Just remembered we must have stayed below seven thousand feet as the soldiers were not provided with oxygen.
Paddy and Cliff on a kerb edge in Salerno (minus vest ?)
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Old 30th Oct 2009, 19:52
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Paddy's Shirt

Good to see you back again Cliff

Your story about Paddy giving up his shirt in exchange for Lira takes me back again to Singapore. In an earlier post I mentioned that a few of us went ashore at Singapore a few days after the Japanese surrender. We were amazed to see that all the shops were well stocked with goods. On board the carrier we had purchased Malayan Dollars (printed in Great Britain) for two shillings and fourpence each but when we tried to spend them the locals were very suspicious and would only treat them as Rupees (one shilling and sixpence each).

We had heard stories about the English army swapping jars of instant coffee or cigarettes for cameras when they occupied Germany so we thought we would try our luck. We found a high class shop with Leica and Contax cameras on show and asked the shop keeper how many cigarettes he would want for a Leica. He replied the cost of the camera was £100, he valued a packet of Players at one shilling and after a short calculation said he would accept 2000 packets of cigarette. We left the shop in a hurry, these wily oriental gentlemen were too canny for us.

Carry on with the good work,

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Old 31st Oct 2009, 12:29
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German report on Pathfinder methods

The 156 Squadron website contains a German report of 1944 detailing their understanding of how the Pathfinder Force operated.
It's fascinating to me that there was such extensive knowledge of the RAF techniques, obviously gleaned from PoW interrogations and comparison with the Luftwaffe Blitz and Baedekker raid techiques.
Apologies that it is fairly long, but it has a good summation as to how raids were marked.

British Pathfinder Operations as at March 1944
Issued by Luftwaffenfuhrungsstab Ic/Fremde
Luftwaffen West

The success of a large-scale night raid by the RAF is in increasing measure dependent on the conscientious flying of the Pathfinder crews. The frictionless functioning of the attack is only possible when the turning points on the inward and courses, as well as the target itself, are properly marked. Lately, these attacks have been compressed into about 4 minutes for each wave averaging 120-150 aircraft

Dense and high reaching clouds, which hide the sky markers over the target, and exceptionally strong winds which blow the markers away quickly, represent an unpredictable barrier to Pathfinder operations and can often appreciably decrease the efficiency of an attack.

Another reason for the failure of a raid may lie in the partial failure of the first Pathfinders, the 'Initial Markers', to arrive, since experience has shown that succeeding Pathfinders, in spite of being equipped with H2S and blind marking equipment, have allowed themselves to be influenced, to a certain extent, by the Initial Markers.


1. The concentrated large-scale RAF raid on Cologne on 30/31 May 1942, during a full moon night and with an alleged strength of more than 900 aircraft, was the first attempt to imitate the 'Focal Point' raids initiated by the German Air Force during this strategic air war against the British Isles during the years 1940 and 1941.

The lessons taught by this first large-scale raid, the increasingly high losses and the fact that the Hyperbola (Gee) navigation system could only be used in certain conditions, forced the AOC-in-C of of Bomber Command to develop new systems of attack.

Using the German system of 'Illuminators' and 'Fire Raisers' as a model, the use of Pathfinders was developed towards the middle of August 1942, in order to bring on to the target all the aircraft, some with inexperienced, others with only medium-trained crews, and to allow the dropping of the bombs without loss of time.

2. Air Vice-Marshall BENNET, at present still in command of these special units, was appointed Chief of the Pathfinder formations.

This 35 year old Australian - known as one of the most resourceful officers of the RAF - had distinguished himself as long ago as 1938 by a record long-range flight to South Africa in a four- engined seaplane which was launched in the air from a Sunderland flying boat (composite aircraft). In 1940 BENNET established the Transatlantic Ferry Command with aircraft of the Hudson type. As an example of his personal operational capabilities, an attack may be cited which he made on the German Fleet base at Trondheim.

BENNET's appointment as Commander of the Pathfinder Formations is also based on the fact that he has written two standard books on astro-navigation.

3. The use of Pathfinders in the first large-scale raids was comparatively primitive. Several particularly experienced crews were sent out first as Fire Raisers ahead of the Main Bomber Force and, in order to facilitate and ensure the location of the target, moonlit nights were especially favoured.

Shortly after the formation of these Pathfinder groups, however, the principle of raids during moonlit nights was dropped and raids in dark cloudless periods began to take place.

BENNET strove to render the raids independent of the weather and at the same time to make it easier for the less experienced crews to locate the target.

4. At first there were only four bomber squadrons, equipped with Stirlings, Halifaxes, Lancasters and Wellingtons, and in January 1943 these units were organised into No 8 Bomber Group, the Pathfinder Group.

The grouping of the Pathfinders into a Bomber Group of their own made it possible to standardise the equipment and the training, to put new ideas into operation and to immediately evaluate all experiences.

During the course of 1943, the number of Pathfinder squadrons was increased to meet the increased demands, and among others, several Mosquito squadrons were detailed to the Pathfinder Group.


I: Organisation and Aircraft Types

1. Eighth Bomber Group at present consists: Five Lancaster squadrons, one Halifax squadron, four Mosquito squadrons (including two special bomber squadrons with 'Bumerang' [Oboe] equipment) and one Mosquito Met Flight.

For further information concerning the organisation of these units, see 'Blue Book Series', Book 1: The British Heavy Bomber Squadron.

2. In addition to the normal navigational aids (see also 'Blue Book Series', Book 7: British Navigation Systems) the aircraft carry the following special equipment:

a) Four-engined aircraft (Lancaster and Halifax):

Rotterdam (H2S) for location of target and bombing without ground visibility;

Hyperbola navigation instrument (Gee);

Identification Friend-Foe (IFF); acoustic night-fighter warning instrument 'Monica';

visual night-fighter warning instrument (Cathode ray oscilloscope) 'Fish Pond'

provision for bomb-release in the cabin as well as in the navigation room.

b) Twin-engined aircraft (Mosquito)

Hyperbola navigation instrument (Gee);

special equipment according to mission, for example 'Bumerang' (Oboe)

the existence of Mosquitos equipped with H2S have not as yet been definitely established. According to latest information, this special equipment does not yet seem to have been installed in the Mosquito.

II: Personnel

1. The crews are no longer composed mainly of volunteers as was formerly the case. Owing to the great demand and the heavy losses, crews are either posted to Pathfinder units immediately after completing their training, or are transferred from ordinary bomber squadrons. As in the past, however, special promotion and the Golden Eagle badge are big inducements to the crews.

At first Pathfinder crews had to commit themselves to 60 operational flights, but due to this high number there were insufficient volunteers, and the figure was decreased to 45.

After transfer to a Pathfinder squadron, a certain probationary period is undergone. The crews are not appointed Pathfinders and awarded the Golden Eagle until they have proved themselves capable of fulfilling the equipments by flying several operations (about 14) over Germany. Before the award of the Golden Eagle each member of the crew has to pass a special examination to show that he is fully capable, of performing two functions on board, for example gunner and mechanic, or mechanic and bomb-aimer, etc.

2. There is a special Pathfinder school (NTU Upwood Special School). All new crews, however, are sent on a special navigational course lasting 8-14 days at a Navigation Training Unit, where particularly experienced instructors, who have already completed their pathfinder tours, train the crews in the operation of the special equipment and put final polish on their already good navigational training.

New Pathfinder crews fly training flights over Great Britain. These are usually made southwest from the Cambridge area, course being set for the Isle of Man. On the return flight, a large city, such as Birmingham or Manchester is approached, dummy bombing using H2S is carried out, and target photographs are brought back to the home base. Flights of this kind are flown to a strict time schedule, just as in the case of a large-scale raid on Germany or the Occupied Western Territories, and are taken into consideration in the assessment of the crews as Pathfinders. If, on several occasions the schedule is not adhered to, the crew is transferred to an ordinary bomber squadron.



The operational tactics of the Pathfinders have been under constant development ever since the earliest days, and even now cannot be considered as firmly established or completed. New methods of target location and marking, as well as extensive deceptive and diversionary measures against German defences are evident in almost ever operation.

Whereas the attacks of the British heavy bombers during the years 19421-43 lasted over an hour , the duration of the attack has been progressively shortened so that today, a raid of 800-900 aircraft is compressed into 20 minutes at the most. According to captured enemy information, the plan for the raid on Berlin on 15/16 February 1944 called for about 900 aircraft in five waves of 4 minutes each.

In spite of the increased danger of collision or of dropping bombs on other aircraft which must be taken into account, the aim has been achieved of allowing the German defences, the Commands as well as the defence weapons themselves, only a fraction of the time available to them during raids in the past.

The realisation of these aims was made possible by the conscientious work of the Pathfinder group and by the high training standard (especially regarding navigation) of the crews.

The markers over the approach and withdrawal courses serve as navigational aids for all aircraft and above all they help them to keep to the exact schedule of tines and positions along the briefed course. Over the target, the markers of the Pathfinders enable all aircraft to bomb accurately without loss of time.

II: Markers

Up to date, the following markers have been identified:


a) Ground Markers: also called cascade bombs, are red, green and yellow. Weather conditions govern the setting of the barometric fuse, whereby the Ground Marker container is detonated at a height varying from 800 to 5,000 metres, thereby releasing 60 flares which fall burning and burn out of the ground.

Ground markers are mainly dropped in the target area, but they are also sometimes used as Route Markers. Ground Markers are also dropped in 10/10ths cloud in order to illuminate the cloud base from below. When the clouds are thin, the crew can see the glare without difficulty. The average duration of burning of a Ground Marker is 3-4 minutes.

b) Sky Markers: parachute flares, of which several are usually placed simultaneously. As a rule, the flares used are red ones from which, at regular intervals, quick-burning green flares ('dripping green stars') drop out.

Besides these, green Sky Markers with red stars and , although comparatively seldom, green Sky Markers with yellow stars are also used.

The bomb aimers are for the most part briefed to drop their bombs into the middle of a group od Sky Markers. This corrects the opinion held until now that two sky markers are set, one to indicate the point of bomb release and the other to indicate the target.

c) White and Yellowish Flares: used chiefly to illuminate a target. They are also sometimes used as dummy markers.

During raids in the autumn of 1943, the enemy attempted to mark a target approach corridor by setting numerous flares. It may be assumed that he dropped this system because of the heavy losses inflicted by German single-engined fighters in the target area.


a) As Track Markers: or Indicators, Sky Markers are used in 10/10ths cloud.

b) Ground Markers: (Spotfires) are red, green or yellow; red and yellow are mainly used. A ground marker does not split up into different traces, but burns with a single bright light for from 3-8 minutes.

NEW KINDS OF MARKERS (as yet not clearly identified)

The enemy has often tried to introduce new kinds of markers with varying lighting effects:

a) Among others, a quick-falling flare bomb was observed lately. After it hit the ground, 1 90 metre high column of sparks was observed, which slowly descended in many colours. Confirmation, however, is not yet available.

b) To designate the beginning and the end of the attack, a large reddish-yellow 'Fireball' has often been observed. Red flares fall from the Fireball and at low heights these again split up into green stars. The light intensity of these bombs is unusually high.

c) The so-called red 'Multi-Flashes' are apparently used as Route Markers,. They have been observed sparkling to the ground at intervals of 2-3 seconds.

d) The enemy seem to have stopped using enormous 1,800 kg size flare bombs. The reason for this could not be determined.

III: Execution of Pathfinder Operations


a) At present, Pathfinder crews are divided into the following categories:Blind Markers, Blind Backers-up, Visual Backers-up, Visual Markers, Supporters - Pathfinder Main Force.

About 15% of the bombers used for a large-scale operation are Pathfinders. For example, out of a strength of 900 aircraft, 120 would be Pathfinders, of which about 20 to 25 would be Blind Markers, 30 to 45 would be Blind and Visual Backers-up and 60 to 70 would be Pathfinder Main Force.

b) Blind Markers: It is the duty of the Blind Markers to locate the target using H2S and to set Ground or Sky Markers, or both, according to weather conditions, at zero hour minus 2 to 5 minutes.

The Blind Marker crew are responsible for the success or the failure of the raid. They are more strictly bound to the time schedule than all the other aircraft taking part in the raid. They are not allowed to drop their markers if the schedule is deviated from by more than one or two minutes, or if the instruments fail, or fail to indicate accurately. In such cases the Blind Marker aircraft automatically becomes part of the Pathfinder Main Force and must drop its HE bomb load exactly at zero hour.

With smaller targets, it is the duty of the Blind Markers to set flares over the target area, in order to illuminate it.

Another duty of good Blind Marker crews during the initial stages of the attack is not only to set new markers, but also to re-centre the attack. Experience has shown that the first aircraft of the Main Force drop their bombs near the Markers but that succeeding aircraft tend drop them short of the target area during the progress of the attack. It is the duty of the Blind Markers detailed for this purpose to bring the bombing back to the original target by resetting the Markers past the first aiming point in the direction of withdrawal.

For several months past, the Blind Markers have had a further duty, In several operations it was repeatedly shown that errors in the navigation of the Main Force occurred owing to inaccurate wind forecasts. Experienced Pathfinders were therefore instructed to transmit their established wind calculations to England by W/T. Each Group picks up these reports and transmits them every half-hour to the airborne bombers.

c) Blind Backers-Up: The duties of the Blind Backers-up are similar to those of the Blind Markers, except that they fly in the bomber stream. Thus, they drop their Markers during the attack, also in accordance with a strict previously laid down time schedule. Blind Backers-up are used to set Ground Markers and, above all, Sky Markers, which are always renewed by means of H2S and never visually.

d) Visual Backers-Up: In order to give new Pathfinder crews a chance to gain experience for future operations as Visual or Blind Markers, they are allowed to set the new Markers visually; these, however are always of a different colour. Theoretically, these Markers should be on, or very near, to the original Markers, but as in practice this is very seldom the case, the impression given is that of the target being framed by markers. The bomb-aimers of the succeeding bombers are therefore briefed to release their bombs in the centre of the markers dropped by the Backers-up.

e) Visual Markers: An attack on a small or pin-point target (definite industrial installations, dockyards, etc) necessitates still more accurate marking than is possible by the Blind Markers. The Visual Markers, therefore, locate the target visually from medium height, sometimes from as low as 1,500 metres, and then release their Ground Markers on the centre of the target, in order to concentrate the attack of the high-flying bombers. The Visual Markers are aided by the illumination of the target area aided by several Blind Markers (Newhaven attack).

f) Supporters: New crews who come from training units or other squadrons and who are to be trained as Pathfinders, fly their first operations in the Pathfinder Main Force. They carry only mines or HE bombs, arrive exactly at zero hour and try, at the first concentric bombing, to create conditions necessary to allow the incendiary bombs of the succeeding waves to take full effect.


Route Markers are set buy good Blind Marker crews and are renewed during the approach of the Bomber Stream by further good Blind Marker crews. Ground Markers (Spotfires) are sometimes set visually, and sometimes by instruments, but Sky Markers used as Track Markers or Indicators are set only by means of H2S.

The route of approach and withdrawal are generally identified by three Markers set at especially prominent points or turning points. The colours of these markers for any single night raid are usually the same: either red, green, yellow or white. It has often been observed that the Route Markers do not always lie exactly on course. They are set somewhat to one side so that the approaching bombers are not unnecessarily exposed to the danger of German night-fighters.


The Target Markers will differ according to weather conditions. More Sky or Ground Markers are set, according to the visibility and cloud conditions prevailing. Up to date, the following methods of attack and target marking have been recognised:

a) The 'Parramatta' attack under a clear sky and with good visibilty. Ground Markers are used only.

b) The 'Wanganui' attack with 8-10/10ths cloud cover. Sky Markers only.

c) The 'Musical Parramatta' attack with 5-8/10ths cloud cover. Mainly Ground Markers, but some Sky Markers.

d) The 'Newhaven' attack, in which the target area is illuminated by means of parachute flares, coupled with several Ground Markers.

e) The 'Musical Wanganui' attack with 8-10/10ths cloud cover. Mainly Sky Markers, but some Ground Markers. This system of target marking has been used to a great extent lately during bad-weather operations.


The setting of the Pathfinder Markers requires a great deal of experience. For this reason, training flights with Markers of all kinds are often carried out over Great Britain, serving for practical experiments with flares as well as for training purposes.

When the target area is already illuminated by previously dropped flares, the Ground Markers are released visually by means of the ordinary bomb-sight. In cases where 10/10ths cloud or dark conditions are found over the target area, H2S is used for dropping all Markers.

A great deal of experience is required for the setting of Blind Markers. Close co-operation between the navigator and the H2S operator (see 'Blue Book Series', Book 7: British Navigations Systems for the difference between the two) who sit side by side in the navigation room, is the first essential for the precise setting of Markers by means of H2S. Above all, drift must be calculated before the Markers are set, so that the Main attacking force has only to navigate on the Markers themselves.


The basis for all Pathfinder navigation is dead reckoning, and all other systems are only aids to check and supplement this. H2S equipment is valueless without dead reckoning because the ground is not shown on the cathode ray tube as it is on a map.

To facilitate the location of the target, an auxiliary target, which experience shows to give a clear picture on the cathode ray tube, is given during briefing. This auxiliary target should be as close to the actual as possible, in order to eliminate all sources of error. Cities, large lakes, or sometimes even coastline features are used as auxiliary targets.

The course and the time of flight from the auxiliary target to the actual target are calculated in advance, taking the wind into consideration. The H2S operator then knows that the main target will appear on the screen a given number of seconds after the auxiliary target has been identified.


The Mosquito aircraft have special duties as Pathfinders, concerning which the following information is available:

a) Setting Ordinary Markers: 15 to 20 minutes before the beginning of the actual attack, in conjunction with other Lancaster Pathfinders, over an auxiliary target.

b) Setting Dummy Markers: along the coast and at other places to indicate a false course and a false target.

c) Dropping so-called 'Fighter Flares': these are imitations of the white and yellow flares dropped by German flare-carrying aircraft, to attract and divert German night-fighters.

d) Dropping 'Window' from great heights: this is so timed, after taking wind conditions into consideration, that a cloud of Window will be over the target when the first four-engined Pathfinders get there. This is made necessary by the fact that the target must be approached in straight and level flight, without evasive action, in order to get a good H2S picture. It is supposed to eliminate to a great extent aimed (radar) fire by the Flak.

e) Release of Single HE Bombs: 20 to 30 minutes after the main attack and observation of the results of the main attack.

f) Identification of pin-point targets: for succeeding Mosquito waves by setting Ground Markers with the aid of 'Bumerang' (Oboe). The succeeding Mosquitos then drop their bombs visually on the marked target.


1. Strong criticism from amongst their own units was at first levelled against the British Pathfinder operations, but they were able to prevail because of the successes achieved during the years 1943/44.

2. The original assumption that the majority of bomber crews would be less careful in their navigation once they became used to the help of the Pathfinders, and that therefore the total efficiency and success of raids would diminish, has hitherto not been confirmed. The navigational training and equipment of the ordinary British bomber crews has also been improved.

3. The operational tactics of the Pathfinders cannot be considered as complete even today. There are, in particular, continual changes of all markers and marking systems.

4. The trend of development will be towards making possible on one and the same night two or more large raids on the present scale, each with the usual Pathfinder accompaniment.

Units of the Rdl an Obdl
Luftflotten down to operational Gruppen
Flakabteilungen an Ln Regiments
(Source: No 61008 Secret Ic/ Foreign Air Forces; A/Evaluation West)

I wonder if RAF crews knew that much!!
Icare9 is offline  
Old 31st Oct 2009, 13:54
  #1260 (permalink)  
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Where Ignorance is bliss, 'tis Folly to be wise.

Thank goodness that I/we did not know half as much of the absolutely absorbing Gen that you have just posted. I am very thankful that I remained ignorant of the many escapes that I had and I know that every one of us who flew in Bomber Command would say the same thing. Knowing exactly what was awaiting us would have been terrible and would have sent most of us "round the bend" ! Nevertheless it was good to read the finest description of the exact duties of the valiant P.F.F. that I have ever seen. Thank you, Reg

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