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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 1st Nov 2009, 15:47
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Reply to Inspector Clueless

I think that some of your questions to me , may interest everyone so will endeavour to answer here.

Were there ever times when you were convinced that your end had come ? No, never. In an emergency you are always too concerned about what you must do to think of the consequences. It all happens very quickly. When the trees were coming through the windscreen of my crashing Mosquito a brief "I hope that my watch doesn't break" flashed into my mind" but was put away. Upside down in a Halifax over a burning Mannheim . " Do an Immelman and half roll out." In a Halifax with a runaway engine hurtling down the runway towards the bomb dump. "How can I stop. Pull the U/C up , you idiot. ". No time to think. Act. Here's where experience is invaluable.. "Been there,(or something similar) done it, got away with it . " cannot be taught but will get one out of nasty spots so many times because it enables you to keep calm and act. It is only when an emergency is coupled with a long drawn series of consequent actions and then you must put that right to the back of
of your mind that you may not survive and concentrate on the right course of actions. Above all you must have and show to your Crew the willpower and the determination that you and they are going to survive, whilst taking all the possible and, sometimes, impossible, actions to ensure this. I refer to such possibilities as a long drawn out return over the sea with engines out and/or crew injuries or even a Hijacking. I have met people
who were convinced that their names were on a certain bullet or even target and that their " number would be up " on a certain day. There is not much that you can do about this except make certain that he is not in your crew or it can spread like wildfire. I believe like Gary Player that "the more practice the luckier you get " with the important proviso that you can practice all the time but you have to be lucky as well.
There was a dreadful superstition that reared it's ugly head on many Bomber Command Stations that "Going out with a certain WAAF "was tantamount to suicide for the whole crew. They were nicknamed "Calamity Kate" and became so unbearable for the unfortunate girl that she was often discharged or, at least, posted to a non operational station. It was , of course, inevitable that such things would happen when losses were running so high but the reality was that the crew would be very upset about any member seeing such an unfortunate girl and would do their utmost to stop it.

Regarding the question of L.M.F. Like Inspector Clueless, we would rather die than "Let the school down". For "School" read Crew, Sqdn. Country, Wife, Children, Self and even "Butcher Harris". and you have it That or those were the reasons that we carried on and I , too regarded the First World War with an absolute horror of the Trenches, Going over the Top and the Gas Warfare, but the terrors of the Area Bombing, the Holocaust and the Concentration camps brought the realities of War and what it means and does to all civilisation and was not confined to the Armed Services.

Steve, I will answer you soon. Regle
Old 4th Nov 2009, 15:08
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GORDON you mention the Leica camera, many of us when we were informed we were posted to Germany after V.E day heard that Leica 111 C cameras could be purchased for a few cigarettes. \I decided that my first purchase on arrival would be one of these beauties. Before the war they were the international Rolls Royce of cameras and so expensive that the only people who used them were the very rich ot top reporters of national newspapers. On my arrival my new best friend or oppo was a Sgt Bernhard Schier who was originally a German Jew who had left Germany about 1936, He spoke perfect German and perfect English, so had been appointed Civil Labour Manager at R.A.F Wunsdorf. Strangely he was given a civilian interpreter (but as the man said ''Rules is Rules'' There was nothing he could not obtain. A for instance, when the officers mess required a pig’s (or was it a boar’s) head for a mess function, Bernhard took the day off, and returned with one. However he could not find a Leica for me in either Hanover or Braunshweig (his home town), they had all been purchased by the early birds . He did locate a Robot camera which I purchased for 2000 cigarettes . I bought it from a German Officer, who said the 2000 cigarettes would produce enough cash to put him through university. Ii was the same size as the Leica , with a F1.8 Carl Zeiss lens, but had a long tube on the top which contained a clockwork device enabling the camera to take thirty five frames in quick succession, \I was told this was because it had been fitted in a German fighter aircraft. Some time later in civvy street I managed to purchase a genuine 3c , but the deal included a Leica copy made by Reid , England. Evidently when the war started the patent law was ignored in many countries who made Leica copies, in the U.K Reids made a screw for screw identical model for use by the R.A.F . I still have both cameras and was surprised to see the Reid is worth about four times the value of the Leica when I searched on Ebay I saw two Reids selling for £1200 each. A pic of my Leica might appear below.( More about Bernhard a fantastic bloke, when I reach Wunsdorf.)

Meanwhile back to Hemswell , the Python leave scheme carried on, with us flying to Pomigliano , and other squadrons flying to Bari on the East coast of Italy. One trip comes to mind , when we arrived at Pomigliano cloud base was one thousand feet. The skipper wanted to ‘let down’ over the airfield , but the navigator advised that as Vesuvious was nearby at five thousand feet, and not having the help of the U.K navigational aids , it would be advisable to obtain a Q.F.C (atmospheric pressure at sea level) , let down over the sea, then obtain a Q.F.E (aerodrome level) and approach from the sea. A few voices came over the intercom saying “out to sea”, we then flew West and came in under the cloud base, to land safely.

I remember also returning early one morning through Naples, as our transport swept round a corner our headlights lit up a leveled out ‘bomb site’, and we were amazed to see dozens of people using it as a toilet. The smell was terrible, and when we enquired about it, were told that the sewers were completely blocked, however it was a sight I never witnessed in Germany.

With reference to my note saying ‘civvies in the U.K used their vehicle tyres until the tubes popped out , I also saw a car trundling along through Naples with what looked like a Spitfire wheel on one side and a bare rim on the other.
And Regle, I took the pic of the Leica mainly to practice taking and transferring pics using my new mobile phone and as usual my mind stared wandering again, what if we had had mobile phones during the war. Hi mother, just approaching the coast.?. Sorry folks , i'm claiming pre-senile dementia.
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Old 4th Nov 2009, 16:21
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I believe that those unlucky girls were also called 'Chop Girls'. In one of Jack Curries' books he mentions being kept away from one by his whole crew !

Great stories guys - keep 'em coming...............

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Old 4th Nov 2009, 17:38
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Mobile phones ?

I think that you have hit on a good idea, Cliff. Chaps; what would be your choice of the one modern invention that would be of the most practical and most welcomed for the general good during the war ? Just to add to it; what practical use would the mobile be put to ? I would exclude all ideas for weaponry and such. Regle
Old 4th Nov 2009, 20:44
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Mobile phones might have changed things at Arnhem. If I recall all the radios had duff frequencies, hardly able to signal from one side of the road to the other....
Glad to see both of you back, been a bit too quiet without you!!
I suppose if I suggested SatNav, I'd upset the Navigator fraternity, but what other modern invention would have proved worthwhile on the battlefield?
Infra red? Heat seeking missiles, helicopter, kevlar, email, blackberry, ******* (ha!)....
I would like to suggest that instead of producing heavies, production of the Mossie so that if lost, only 2 crew gone, rather than 7. 3 times the number of aircraft so perhaps equivalent bomb load per target. I only wish the RAF had been as effective as the Germans in attacking night bombers, so huge numbers of intruders to catch the nightfighters taking off to intercept the bombers.
I can't see that we had any real alternative means of attacking Germany apart from the air and daylight attacks were almost suicide.
There was no practical alternative, nor any means of damaging enemy production but by dropping hundreds of bombs around the target area.
That tied up troops and equipment that would have been available elsewhere to the detriment of the Desert campaign and Russia might have been knocked out again. it also hampered production of existing equipment and prevented the design and use of many more effective aircraft, tanks and other equipment. Germany fought practically the whole of WW1 outside its territory, and practically the same in WW2.
I think the one thing I would want the power to change would to have been in the Comet design team and insisted on oval windows, not rectangular.
Aviation might then have seen Britain at the forefront of civil and military design....
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Old 4th Nov 2009, 21:56
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I would exclude all ideas for weaponry and such.....

Oh dear , Regle
Old 5th Nov 2009, 05:54
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What about an EPIRB for those crews unfortunate enough to ditch in the North Sea?
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Old 5th Nov 2009, 13:12
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Autopilots with Flight Management Systems. Autoland. Ejection seats at all crew stations, including turrets.
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Old 5th Nov 2009, 15:19
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Satnav instead of Navigators.!

Lady's sexy voice " at 1000 yds turn "Left,left", turn "Left,left", on Orange Track Indicators. .Keep straight ahead, At twenty miles , in three and a half minutes, turn "Right", turn "Right". In one minute, "Open Bomb doors". In Two minutes drop bombs on Blue Target Indicators" , Start bomb run now. Left, left, steady, Back a bit, Right, steady Bombs away NOW." Loud bang !!! "You have now reached your Final Destination "
Regle...If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Old 5th Nov 2009, 15:37
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As usual, you trumped the lot of 'em, Reg.
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Old 6th Nov 2009, 08:21
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Simply putting canopies on dinghies would have saved a lot of chaps, I reckon...never understood why they didn't.
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Old 6th Nov 2009, 10:19
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Simply putting canopies on dinghies would have saved a lot of chaps, I reckon...never understood why they didn't.

Nine man dinghy , at Maryport, inflated ready to be lashed to deck of the "Two sisters"
They did, but when? I thought we had them but maybe confused, as I bought a R.A.F surplus one, for my boat after the war. Seem to remember a story of a a canopied dinghy being overturned once in a rough sea and the crew 'walking round' it inside to right it. Also seem to remember being told that as the floor, sides, and bottom were also inflated to insulate, as well as provide buoyancy.The body heat of seven men inside would prevent frost bite, even in the coldest weather. Was it called the Beaufort dinghy ? Any one know the true facts ? A figment of my imagination?
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Old 6th Nov 2009, 10:44
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Simply putting canopies on dinghies would have saved a lot of chaps, I reckon...never understood why they didn't.
Probably because the effects of wind chill and hypothermia weren't widely understood at the time.

The only ones that put humans through extensive hypothermia research (at lower temperatures) were the Nazis at Dachau. The Nazis immersed their subjects into vats of ice water at sub-zero temperatures, or left them out to freeze in the winter cold. As the prisoners became unconscious, the so-called Nazi 'doctors' meticulously recorded the changes in their body temperature, heart rate, muscle response, and other characteristics.
I've modified that quote, the original is even more graphic and repellant.

Thank you, regle et al., for blasting some of those Nazi swine off the face of the earth.

The best invention we could have had in WW2 would have been anything which improved inteliigence about high value targets and a method of concentrating Bomber Commands assets more productively than they were in the earlier years.
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Old 7th Nov 2009, 09:08
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 16.

New W/C Flying and CO 72 Sqn, and “The Channel Dash” - February 1942

Jamie Rankin took over as Wing Commander Flying at Biggin Hill and Brian Kingcome took over 72 with Pete Wickham as ‘A’ Flight Commander. Now, you’ve heard me mention Brian Kingcome on a number of occasions, but I’ll just say, he was probably one of the finest leaders and squadron commanders I’ve ever come across. He really was tremendous. To begin with he had no side whatsoever and after being introduced to each of us at the dispersal, he said,

“Well, my name is Brian. I don’t want any of this “Sir” business, but on the other hand, if I’m talking to the Station Commander, I don’t want some Sergeant Pilot walking up and slapping me on the back and saying ”Wotcher Brian, how are you?””

PeteWickham had fought out in Greece with Pattle and Vale (“Pat” Pattle was the highest scoring Commonwealth pilot in WWII credited with 50+ kills , before being killed in April 1941 over Athens/Piraeus. “Cherry” Vale was credited with 30+ in the same theatre, both flying with 33 and 80 Squadrons in Gladiators and Hurricanes. “Timber” Woods, passim, was in the same combat when Pattle was shot down.) He was a very experienced chap and a very good flight commander. He also gave me permission to have the word “Connie” painted on my aircraft, so I obviously had a soft spot for him.

Now the normal daily arrangement on the squadron was to have a list of pilots written up on the board, so that whatever came up, those pilots would be on the first show. Now I’d done a convoy job on Feb 10th and Feb 11th and consequently I wasn’t particularly surprised when my name wasn’t on the board on Feb 12th. We were a bit surprised when the squadron was ordered to take off and rendezvous at Manston to escort some Swordfish on what we were told was a convoy strike. Anyway the aircraft took off. Well, eleven out of twelve did and the twelfth chap was a South African by the name of Suga, who wasn’t exactly a do or die character. We were watching from the dispersal and we were a bit surprised to find that Suga’s aircraft never left the perimeter track. He eventually returned to dispersal and we couldn’t make out whether his aircraft was u/s or he was u/s, or just didn’t feel in the mood, or what. Anyway, no arrangements had been made for a spare to fly along with the squadron, so the rest of us just hung around and waited for them to come back. As you know full well, the eleven aircraft from 72 picked up the Swordfish off Manston and tried to do some damage to the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The squadron ran into a horde of 190s and what with the enemy aircraft and the flak from the battleships, they were unable to do anything about protecting the Swordfish, which were all shot down one after the other. (The Swordfish were from 825 Naval Air Squadron, led by Lieutenant Commander Eugene Esmonde RN, who received a posthumous Victoria Cross for his gallantry. Five aircrew survived, all of whom were subsequently decorated for bravery.)

One of our chaps circled one of the Swordfish in the sea and saw one of the airmen get into a dinghy and circled as long as he could, calling up “Mayday”, but eventually had to leave for lack of fuel and how any of the Swordfish chaps got back I have no idea. Anyway, the squadron destroyed three confirmed, four damaged but that wasn’t much help to the Swordfish boys. Not long after they had returned the squadron was ordered out again and once again, Sogar decided that either he wasn’t well, or the aircraft wasn’t well, but he never took off with the rest of the Squadron. I hadn’t anything to do, and consequently I got into my aircraft and in order to save time, instead of taxiing round the perimeter track, I shot straight out of the bomb-bay, took off downwind, much to the surprise of Doc White who’d been watching from the dispersal. He said it was quite an interesting take-off!

Anyway, I couldn’t find the squadron after I got to Manston, although there was every type of aircraft you could imagine flying around, but I saw a couple of Beauforts and I imagined they’d be pointing in the right direction, so I tacked onto those and flew in very misty weather it seemed, for ages. We went on, we never saw anything and I thought I’d either run out of fuel or get lost, because there didn’t seem much point in going on, so I waved goodbye to the Beaufort boys, turned round and eventually found my way back to Gravesend. The weather by this time really was grim, you couldn’t see more than about four or five hundred yards and I’m surprised anyone found the German warships at all.

The following day we escorted seven destroyers far out into the North Sea but although we were expecting loads of enemy aircraft, nothing turned up and the only thing we saw was a Beaufighter, so we handed over to another squadron and came back and that was the end of the Scharnhorst affair as far as we were concerned.

During Feb we had two Rhodesian pilots posted to us, Sgt Pat Reilly and Sgt Tommy Wright and I took both of them out on sector recces, to show them our area, points to look out for and how to find the aerodrome in bad weather and all this sort of business. It made quite a change from 111 Sqn where new pilots were just told to take off and have a look round on their own. It’s a lot better if you’ve got somebody with you who can point out things to you that will help you in days to come. Actually, on the first trip, I took Pat Reilly on, his engine packed up, it had a glycol leak and crash-landed just outside Rochester but he got away with it alright. He was shot down and killed later on and many years after the war I was reading “Airmail” and there was an advert in the paper from his son asking if anyone knew Pat Reilly who was with him on the squadron, so I wrote out to Rhodesia, explaining what I knew of him and what had happened when we did our one trip together and said that I also had his clothes brush, which was a very nice one, and if his son would like to have it I’d send it out to him. I received a very nice letter from his son, saying thanks for the information and he’d be delighted if I’d hang on to the clothes brush in memory of his father, and I’ve still got it.

Tommy Wright was a great lad, a very cheerful soul, he stayed with the Sqn until August 42 when he and “Timber” Woods, who was our flight commander, were sent out to Malta and Tommy Wright, I regret to say, was killed at Malta.
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Old 7th Nov 2009, 10:15
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The Channel dash.

What a wonderful contribution you are making with the vivid recollections of your gallant Father and how proud you must be of him, John. Thank you and how humble I feel when I read of the fate of those intrepid crews of the Swordfish. I also feel so angry at the circumstances that led us to have to pit those ancient "Stringbags" against the terrible odds that faced them. "Lions led by Donkeys" again springs to mind. A quiet , but heartfelt "Thank you" to all of them. Regle.
Old 8th Nov 2009, 15:35
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Extra pilot

Was talking with my father just now. On his last 12 ops as a Lanc pilot (the final 8 of which were to Berlin) he took a total of 10 extra crew - 8 pilots and 2 navigators - to experience their first op before doing it for themselves. He says, though, that he can't remember where the extra pilot sat/stood for take-off - can anyone throw light on this? He also remembers that one of the rookie pilots was seen to be fast asleep as they approached their bombing run over Berlin. He was soon rudely awoken by the crew! In discussion next morning Dad's crew decided there was no way this chap would survive the war. In fact he did.

This same pilot also managed to fall asleep in the officers mess some weeks later - which apparently was seen as a serious crime by all other officers. Therefore whilst asleep his feet were surreptitiously tied to the legs of his chair - once this was done someone rushed over to him to tell him there was a phone call for him, to an obvious resultant comic effect!
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Old 8th Nov 2009, 17:42
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From Freight to Self propelled Cargo

During the summer months of 1954, Sabena operated a service from Knokke/Le Zoute on the Belgian coast border with Holland and from there, via Ostend , to London. This service was called the "littoral" (the coast) and was very popular with the Freight Captains as it meant a very nice week spent at the very popular and "chic" resort of Le Zoute and a welcome change from flying pigeons and pigs.
The service was nearly always full with the 25 passengers that the D.C.3 was capable of carrying and especially the return to London when the homeward bound pax would stock up with the "Duty Free" that was sold on board. Once, whilst on this route, I found the trim of the aircraft very strange so went back to investigate. I found that the enterprising sole stewardess had set up a counter on a box in the aisle and was doling out the goodies from the packing cases behind her to the queue of passengers who stretched down the aisle to the tail. Thus saving her from going seat by seat and then back with the sale.
One day I was in London Airport, waiting for the aeroplane to be ready for the turnaround to go to Ostend . I walked into the Sabena office and a lady staff member said "You are Captain L... , aren't you ?"
When I replied "Yes." she said "Well I am the Station Manager's secretary and we had more than 1200 applicants for the thirty Pilots' jobs that were vacant. Do you remember getting a letter , when you applied for the job, telling you to come for an interview and you replied that you were working during the week and would not ask your employer for time off to apply for another job ?". "Yes". I replied. " Well we were snowed under with applicants and our Manager, Mr. S..... said "That's one less." and threw your letter in the wastepaper basket. I thought that it was a shameful way to treat your honest reply so, when he had gone home, I retrieved it, phoned you myself and arranged the interview for Saturday morning." I was speechless and have often thought how that kind action had changed so many lives. It is impossible to imagine how our children, grand and great grandchildren and so many other lives , would have been affected so I thanked her profusely and put it down to fate.
We had, by now, purchased a car. It was a second hand Studebaker in beautiful condition and was a constant source of enjoyment to our small family. The kids loved it because they said that you could never tell whether it was coming or going. The front looked exactly like the tail. We bought a big tent and enjoyed the beautiful, long stretching, firm sands of the Belgian coast. One of our most memorable holidays was at La Panne where we actually went to a "Pension" and had one of the loveliest summer holidays that still remains in my memory; the sun shone as if we were in the South of France, the children were small enough to only have small problems and Dora was released from the kitchen for the first time in our married life. We were very happy. I was now a fully fledged Captain flying the finest propellor air liner that I ever flew, The Convair 240. The cockpit was the nearest thing to a Fighter Pilot's dream and the aircraft handled like a Spitfire. I was flying on the European sector with very few nights away from home and it came as no surprise when Dora told me, in the early autumn of 1955 , that she was pregnant. In June 1956 , Dora went into a very nice Nursing Home in the nearby Flemish district of Brussels, Schaerbeek. I would come home from visiting her and the three children would rush to meet me from school and would shout "Has it come ? ". On June the 8th. 1956 they were all thrilled when I was able to tell them that they had a new baby sister. When I took them to see her , the little Flemish nurse brought the baby in and said "Voila votre "Fillke"", giving the usual Flemish diminutive of "ke" to "Fille" making it "little girl" in the Bruxelloise argot. We had decided to call the baby Helen, and I was actually at the counter of the registry Office , completing the form when the Clerk gave me the phone and said "Your Wife wants to speak to you. " Dora had changed her mind and wanted the name Susan, so Susan it was. Not that she was ever called that. No. The name "Fillke" stuck and although we anglicised the spelling to "Feeka", she is still called Feeka to this day. There was a brief spell much, much later ,when meeting her from school she would whisper vehemently "Call me Suzanne ". but that did not last very long.
The house at Evere was now too small so we moved to the leafy district of Woluwe. St. Pierre. We had found a fairly big house at No 2 Ave. de l'Escrime. It had four big bedrooms , a nice small garden and was near a very good school and the small village of Stockel with it's shops and weekly market. It was less than the requisite 30 minutes by car from the Airport at Melsbroeck. If you could'nt get to the airport in that time then you had to do all your "Reserves" at the Airport in uniform and ready to go anywhere in Europe. This was quite a nuisance as you were "En Reserve" at least twice a week so that meant that you could stay at home and await their usually inevitable call. Incidentally, as a matter of interest when I first met the charming Widow , of a "certain age", as the French so tactfully put it, owner of the house that we had rented, she had asked me if I wanted to enter into an agreement called a "Rente Viagaire". This is a sort of life annuity where you pay a much lower rent to a Landlord/lady but must pay it until his/her death when you would then become the houseowner. I had never heard of this before but evidently it was quite common in Belgium and France. I refused politely as it was not my intention to stay too long before building my own property. As far as I know she is still alive !
The Studebaker had done it's job well but we were now more affluent and bought our very first brand new car, a gleaming Opel, appropriately entitled "Kapitan".
Our new house stood on the corner of the street and the house on the opposite corner belonged to one of the Directors of Sabena. One evening there was a ring on the doorbell and the Sabena Director stood there, Could he please phone his house as he had forgotten his keys ? His Wife was very deaf and could not hear the doorbell ? She had probably gone to bed as she didn't hear the phone either. (this was long before the day of the mobile ). Eventually, our eldest son, Peter, who had gone up to his room, came down and said "I can let you in." He crossed the road, shinned up a drainpipe,went in through a half open window and let the flabbergasted Director in through the front door. "The Maid's room" said Peter, conversationally. On this note...to be continued. Regle
Old 8th Nov 2009, 19:40
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No wonder a big smile comes to my face every time I see your monniker on the list of new posts! What a cracker and isn't fate an extraordinary thing .....

With very best wishes on this special day

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Old 8th Nov 2009, 23:35
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Reg, you missed your second calling in life, i.e. writing.

It's very enjoyable.

Thanks and please continue, yourself, and Cliff, and now Gordon P Davis, and John Fairr.

And did you know, there is a notice of the first flight of your beloved Halifax, at Bicester now, amongst local people, due I think partly to the efforts of BC heritage to raise some memorial to your fellow flyers.
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Old 9th Nov 2009, 11:22
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Another brave "regle". The full story here:

Squadron Leader Reg Lewis - Telegraph

Last edited by pulse1; 9th Nov 2009 at 13:04. Reason: Edited after Union Jack's helpful suggestion below.
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