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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 9th Nov 2009, 12:37
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Pulse

For the avoidance of doubt and for obvious reasons, I hope that you agree that perhaps your very commendable reference to this stirring tribute reads better as "Another brave "regle"-type story here"

Jack
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Old 9th Nov 2009, 13:05
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re S/L Reg Lewis


His Pilot in Dec 1942 F/O Cooke when in XV Squadron with Reg Lewis was one of 3 experienced crews detailed for an attack against Deipholz, their target was to be a German aircraft depot .The three crews were F/O Cooke,F/S McMonagle and P/O Frank Millen. F/O Cooke piloting Stirling bomber BF411.LS-A took off first at 1722 closely followed by the other two. Approaching the target at 7000 ft F/O Cooke made a low level bombing run at 1937. He was followed five minutes later by F/S McMonagle who unbeknown to the latter was being stalked by two Bf110 nightfighters. He knew of their presence when cannon and machine gun fire spat forth. As they took evasive action the gunners returned fire and shot down one of the nightfighters. The second took up the challenge scoring hits and wounding the mid upper gunner. Stirling BF355 survived to fight another day but unfortunately P/O Frank Millen was shot down by a nightfighter and crashed at Epe in Holland.

This was one of the many encounters of S/L Reg Lewis whilst completing his 30 missions at XV Squadron on Stirlings.
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Old 10th Nov 2009, 13:55
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For some very moving stories in their own words, there's quite a few here.

"I was a Flight Commander at the time, I went from Pilot Officer to Squadron Leader in six weeks due to the casualties."

(Bill Reid VC was another of those who learned to fly in the USA.)
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Old 10th Nov 2009, 19:58
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Just finished a reread of Max Hastings book Bomber Command. A quote from a member of 76 Squadron I think sums up the thoughts of a lot of aircrews in 1943.

"If you live on the brink of death yourself, it is as if those who have gone have merely caught an earlier train to the same destination, and whatever that destination is, you will be sharing it soon, since you will almost certainly be catching the next one."

Reading of the early days of the war and the daylight raids with the Blenheims, Whitleys and Wellingtons, you have to wonder at the carnage and wastage of highly trained crews who were sent out on hopeless missions time and time again. It really was a case of "Lions being led by donkeys".

Good to see this thread continues to run with the stories from those days from regle and co, keep it up.
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Old 11th Nov 2009, 14:10
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regle

I have been slowly working my way through this thread, - undoubtedly the most fascinating and valuable record to appear here, - and to my delight spotted your reference to Len Thorne, the pilot who flew you out to Belgium when you first joined Sabena.

Len, who died some years ago, was my wife's uncle. As you are doubtless aware, he too was an Arnold graduate (having started the war as a probationary Met policeman, in which capacity he was awarded one of the first George Medals for rescuing a large number of people from a burning building). He completed a full tour on Lancasters and subsequently had a long career with Sabena.

I had the pleasure of meeting him in Belgium on a number of occasions, but never had the real opportunity to get to know him well. I have a vague recollection that he was given an award by King Leopold for managing to land him at a fog-bound Brussels during the Congo crisis, when the advised diversion to another country would have cause great loss of face. It would be great to hear any memories you may have of him in the course of your next Sabena instalment.
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Old 12th Nov 2009, 15:19
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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
Hi Sandisondaughter, Welcome I think that the official position for the bomb aimer during take off and landing was to sit at the rear of the main spar with his back to the spar although I don’t remember any one doing this. On the other hand I do not remember any bomb aimer staying down in the nose on take off, think he just stood behind me ( FE position.) Because of this the best position for any spare ‘bods’ would be sitting with their backs to the main spar, but not twelve of them. Would think the extra pilots would sit on the floor, backs to side of fuselage, and somewhat aft of the main spar just like our twenty soldiers , carried during the Python leave, described in a recent post. Me if I was a spare ? I would be on the rest bed with feet forward against the bulkhead , and also fast asleep.

Would it be possible for you to give us more interesting info, even if only occasionally , I am positive that every one on here would be extremely interested , I certainly am.
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Old 12th Nov 2009, 18:11
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Twelve good men and true.

Cliff, I don't think that the twelve second pilots were all aboard together.Surely,not even our "Leaders" would take the risk of losing thirteen pilots in one aircraft ? I took it that she meant that over a short period Sandy had twelve second dickies. I may be wrong but that is the way I read it. I must confess that the first time I read it I thought the same as you which made me read it again and come to the above conclusion.Regle
 
Old 12th Nov 2009, 19:12
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A Spitfire Pilot. Part 17.

A long entry, but I did not want to lose the continuity of the action. Apologies if it seems a bit family and boring. JF


72 Sqn – March 1942 – Engagement, Bale-out and move to Biggin Hill

Anyway, as you know by now, I’d been seeing quite a lot of Mum during the time I was at 111 and now 72 and I had a few days leave at the beginning of March and we thought it would be rather nice if we were to become engaged. Now in those days it was the usual thing for the prospective son-in-law to see the father-in-law and ask for the hand of his daughter. Well we’d been down to Monkhams that night (The Monkhams Inn was a pub about half a mile from 76 Kings Avenue, near Roding Valley Station, and a favourite of Ferdie and Else, who continued to frequent it right up till the ‘60s), and we came back and Mum knew I was going to speak to Ferdie about this and she and Else (mother in law of RJHR) went into the kitchen and I said to Ferdie,

“Can I have a word with you?”

“Yes, alright.”

So we went into the lounge and with some trepidation I said that Con and I would like to become engaged if it’s alright with you. Well he seemed fairly pleased with the idea but said he’d rather we waited to get married for a year or so. We didn’t mind, having surmounted the first hurdle. Now at that time I had about £10 in the bank and a tax rebate, so having collected the tax rebate, Mum and I went up to the City and bought the engagement ring which I placed on your mothers’ hand on the 10th March in the Queens’ Brasserie. But Mum took it off again, because Ferdie rather wanted us to become engaged on his birthday, which, if I remember rightly, was the 11th March.

I went back to the squadron highly delighted and full of myself and the lads were quite pleased, because they’d heard nothing but my talking about Mum day in and day out, which may surprise you, young John.

The weather was picking up, we did quite a few sweeps of which I was on eight in March We went to various places, Boulougne, Calais, Dunkirk, Abbeville and a place called Massingguard, which I’ve never yet managed to find on any map. All I remember is that it was quite a long way into France, but we met very little opposition, I didn’t get a squirt at a Hun anyway. We met them, but they wouldn’t play and we got to ignore the flak unless it came very close; there was no great panic about it, particularly over Abbeville. If you went one side of the river, I can never remember which, you got flak all round you, but if you went the other side of the river you got very little flak at all, which was quite good.

On the 14th March we were due to escort six Bostons to Le Harve which we didn’t mind a bit, inasmuch as the Bostons were quite fast and they didn’t hang about once they’d bombed the target which gave us a little more scope to have a crack at anything that came up. Well on this particular occasion we had to hang around in the Ops Room after being briefed and whilst there was nothing doing the Intelligence Officer, a Sqn Ldr Derfour decided that we could have a little chat from a Sqn Ldr who’d baled out a few days before and finished up in the Channel. As I said before, very few of us had ever baled out and any information was good for us. Well, I sat next to Brain Kingcome while the talk was going on, and the chap was explaining how he’d pulled up into a slow roll, hung on his back, undone his straps and dropped out. Brian turned to me and said,

“I don’t believe that method, Robbie, it’s a lot easier to shove the stick forward and get hurled out.”

Well I didn’t think any more about it and we picked up these Bostons, went across to Le Harve and there was a fair amount of flak and I’m not sure if I got hit, to be honest. Anyway, coming back, about halfway across the Channel, glycol started pouring out like mad and the engine was making funny noises. My Number 2 called up and said that I was on fire and bale out. Well on the 14th March it was very, very cold, very bleak, there were enormous waves which had great white tops on them and I didn’t fancy finishing up in the drink at all. We passed a couple of coasters, quite near our coast and my Number 2 was calling,

“Get out, get out”

And I still didn’t fancy it inasmuch as if I’d finished in the sea, with the height of the waves, the coasters probably wouldn’t have seen me anyway and I’d have frozen stiff or drowned or both, so I said,

“No, I’ll put the aircraft down on the beach”.

Well, having got so far near Brighton I thought, ‘Oh well, the beach is probably mined, so I’ll put it down in a field’. Well it was still chuntering along, but by this time a fair bit of smoke had come out and the smoke was coming up through the cockpit and I thought I’d better get out and for some reason I had an idea that if baled out you were given leave. So before I undid my straps and decided to get out I called up my Number 2 and said,

“Is it right you get a weeks leave if you bale out?”

Well his reply was short and to the point.

“Don’t whatsit whatsit” as he was yelling at me to get out.

So having got rid of the hood, or slid it back, I undid all the straps and trimmed the aircraft fully forward, and I thought, well I’ll take my hands off the stick and give a mighty push and I should be hurled out. Well having trimmed it fully forward, the minute I let go of the stick, the nose dropped and the next thing I knew I was floating about in the air. Now I looked up and I couldn’t see any parachute and I thought I must be upside down, so I looked between my legs and there was still no parachute. I looked round and found I hadn’t pulled the ripcord, which I did a bit smartly and, a second or so later, there was a satisfying thump and the parachute opened. I must say it’s a very soothing experience, to float about 1500’ up, it’s so quiet it’s amazing. The only thing was that the aircraft was still on fire and flying round and round on its own and I had visions of it colliding with me, but it didn’t.

Sitting in my parachute harness, surveying the landscape, I found there were fields all around except for one large copse and that seemed to be the place where I was headed. Now I know that if you pull on one side of the rigging the parachute will go one way and if pull on the other side it will go in the opposite direction, but there’s no method by which you can keep the parachute up there any longer than the force of gravity will allow. As I didn’t want to land any faster than I would normally do, I just let the parachute take me and I was dragged backwards through quite a few trees and eventually came to quite a pleasant halt, stuck in the top of the tree. So I undid my harness and climbed down and made my way to the edge of the copse, through a hedge and lo and behold, in the road, just the other side of the hedge was one old dear, who looked at me as I came through the hedge, and said,

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

I said ‘No thank you very much’, crawled out, and waved to my number 2 to show that I was alright and he disappeared back to Gravesend.

Now just after that a lady doctor arrived in her car and picked me up and took me to the nearest military base, which happened to be a Canadian dental centre. Now these characters had seen me fly over, emitting vast amounts of smoke and seen the other Spitfire and naturally assumed that the Spitfire had shot down a Jerry and I was the Jerry. So the CO, a colonel, had armed everybody with rifles and revolvers and anything else he could lay his hands on and they were all set to come out and pick me up and I think they were quite disappointed when I arrived.

Anyway, they were quite nice to me and I was bit scruffy, but they took me into the Officers’ Mess and forced a large whisky on me, and as you know I can’t stand whisky, but I managed to get it down. The only snag was, I’d left my pipe at Gravesend on the window ledge of the dining room, I remember it well. So they gave me a cigar and I smoked that, had a very nice meal, then the CO gave me his car and driver and I was taken to Shoreham.

There was a small hospital at Shoreham where I spent the night and had a check-up and the following morning I was taken to Shoreham aerodrome where the lads were going to fly me back to Gravesend in a Lysander. Well I must admit I wasn’t too popular with the lads at Shoreham. They had an air-sea rescue base there with a Walrus and they’d watched me coming across the Channel with smoke and everything else billowing out and they were looking forward to doing a bit of air-sea rescue and getting another notch on their gun-barrel or whatever they do and they were most upset when I chugged across Shoreham, still emitting smoke and baled out farther on! Anyway, they put me in this Lysander and took me back to Gravesend and to sit in the back of a Lysander when it lands is quite an experience. To begin with, when it slows down, enormous sort of shutters shoot out of the wing with a helluva clatter and it drops almost vertically, but they got me there quite safely.

Now, having landed I felt quite the little hero and I was walking up to the dispersal and spoke to Brian, Brian Kingcome, who congratulated me on getting out and getting home alright and I felt quite chuffed until he said,

“There is one point, Robbie, you don’t have to tell all the bloody German Air Force, you’re going to bale out!”

I felt quite a little hero for a time, especially when I had to explain exactly what it was like getting out and what I did and how, but my number 2 still insisted I would have been better off jumping into the Channel, with which I did not agree.
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Old 12th Nov 2009, 20:56
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a place called Massingguard, which I’ve never yet managed to find on any map
Sounds like Mazingarbe in the Pas-de-Calais, here.

From Wiki:

"The creation of a treatment plant and coal processing plant in 1896, which later became a large chemical complex, significantly enhanced the town......The Second World War didn’t spare the town either. An Allied aerial bombardment of the factories and mines, in September 1943, claimed 27 civilian victims."
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Old 13th Nov 2009, 10:15
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12 pilots ?

Cliff, I don't think that the twelve second pilots were all aboard together
I thought on reading the post that risking twelve pilots in one aircraft unusual. However my mind started to wander as usual, and I thought of the two merchant ships filled with rifles and ammunition steaming towards the middle East. One was torpedoed, the one carrying the ammunition ..

' Mine is not to reason why.........' ?
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Old 13th Nov 2009, 14:09
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Lastgasp, you had me foxed for a little while until I realised that you had the wrong King when you said that King Leopold had decorated your Wife's Uncle . Leopold 11 had been forced to abdicate by his Nation because of his behaviour at the invasion of Belgium. Leopold 1 was the founder and tyrant of the Belgian Congo and it would have been King Baudouin that decorated Len. I wonder whether the coincidence can stretch further as the King was gracious enough to make me a "Chevalier de l'ordre de la Couronne" for events which took place many years later ? I suspect it would be the same as it is a decoration reserved for non Belgians.
I have sent you a PM. All the best , Regle
 
Old 15th Nov 2009, 16:39
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Expo 58

As time went by I rose up the promotion ladder. We were still being paid a bonus on every hour over 50 each month and we were paid more for flying the more modern and , usually bigger aircraft. This led to the common practice of people who, for one reason or another, could not exceed 50 hours , "offering their flights to friends who could, to the benefit of both parties, Strangely enough, "Rostering" never seemed to complain about this practice. I wonder why ! It was quite common to exceed 100 hrs. per month as there was no limitations on flying hours.
One day, in a Convair 240, I was just about to land at London airport , when a gigantic Air Canada Constellation taxied on to the runway in front of me. I was at about forty feet and had cut my power and realised that I was too low to overshoot with the "Connie" in front of me so I ,literally, bounced it over the Constellation. There wasn't much runway left and I had to brake and reverse hard. Later, a very cool (British!) passenger told me that he had seen the three tails of the "Connie" pass under his window and had then seen his glasses slide to the end of his nose and back again. Oh !, I forgot. As it happened I was being "line checked" by my Chief Pilot,Europe, Marcel Vanderverren. He didn't say a word. He just sat there, white as a sheet and didn't speak for about five minutew. He later sent me a very nice letter of commendation. I heard , but cannot confirm, that the hapless Canadian had become hopelessly lost whilst taxying out and had taxied on to the runway thinking that it was the taxiway.

Belgium was now preparing for the World Exposition that was to be held in Brussels in the summer of 1958. They were quite ruthless. The city was torn apart and a network of very fine roads and ring roads with underpasses was built. Even the ubiquitous trams went underground and their systems were extended to the suburbs and became more like trains, with level crossings being built in the respective boroughs.
Notorious black spots had underpasses built beneath them and although it was chaotic for a long period, you could eventually drive from one side of the city to the other without encountering a traffic light and for decades afterwards, Brussels was left with a very fine road system.

The Atomium was built and the Exhibition grounds at the Heysel were taking shape. The replica medieval village, "Joyeuse Belgique" or, to give it it's jollier Flemish name "Frollijke Belgie", became an integral part of Belgian night life. Sabena crews would go straight from their flights to the village where it's numerous Cafes, Bistro's and Restaurants never closed from the opening of the Expo, welcomed them amd they would be joined by their wives and partners who believed in the old adage about what to do if you could'nt beat 'em.
One of the British architects responsible for the building of the British Pavilion had conveniently left a cleverly constructed secret entry into the Exhibition Grounds and it was hilarious to join a group of elegantly dressed Diolomats and their guests, after one of the numerous Embassy parties , sneaking in by the back door, to continue the revelry.

In those pre EU days the British Colony was quite small but had a very good , well organised social life. Amongst the British Pilots of Sabena ,we found that we had become the Uncles and Aunts to each other's children who had left their real relatives behind in the U.K. The British Royal Cricket Club was one of the leading lights of the social life. It had existed since 1815 when the Guards had played Cricket, before the Battle of Waterloo, in Brussel's lovely "Bois de la Cambre" and had continued by playing in the Dutch league and friendlies with many British visitors. We once played the crew of a British submarine that had made it's way up the Canal system to Brussels. We paid a visit to their boat afterwards and the ladies all remarked how gallant the crew were in helping them out of the bottom of the conning tower as they stepped out. We didn't tell them that the crew drew lots for the job of sitting at the bottom as they descended. the ladder ! I always remember one of the Officers telling us that he had had a wonderful night out the night before and had not been allowed to pay for a drink. We offered to take him back there but he could'nt remember where it was but he remembered it was called by a girl's name , "Stella " and we were so drunk we even tried to find it ! Regle
 
Old 15th Nov 2009, 17:23
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We once played the crew of a British submarine that had made it's way up the Canal system to Brussels. We paid a visit to their boat afterwards and the ladies all remarked how gallant the crew were in helping them out of the bottom of the conning tower as they stepped out. We didn't tell them that the crew drew lots for the job of sitting at the bottom as they descended.

It was always an unwritten rule in the Royal Navy that officers should invariably precede ladies down ladders, and follow them up ladders - an early exercise in health and safety, I believe!

Jack

PS Knock! Knock! Who's there? Nicholas! Nicholas who? Nicholas girls should never go down in submarines ......
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Old 15th Nov 2009, 22:21
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I was at about forty feet and had cut my power and realised that I was too low to overshoot with the "Connie" in front of me so I ,literally, bounced it over the Constellation.
Unreal!

Next you'll be telling us something about being upside down in a Halifax over a German city or something...
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Old 16th Nov 2009, 06:23
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Stella

Could your Submariner have been referring to the "Stella Maris", which is an international organisation that provides Seafarers' Centres throughout the world? I was thrown out of one with a Merchant Navy pal sometime in the seventies. Tilbury, I think it was... The memory has always been a bit fuzzy about that night. TB
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Old 16th Nov 2009, 11:16
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Stella

I realise that I may have been rather obscure when I told the story about the good time that the Submariner had in the pub called "Stella". Stella Artois is probably the best known beer from Belgium and every single pub has "Stella" emblazoned somewhere on the premises. Note that I say best known and will not stray further! Regle
 
Old 16th Nov 2009, 11:39
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To Kookabat

See post 408. P21. Regle.
 
Old 16th Nov 2009, 13:59
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Stella

No Reg, not obscure at all. I lived in Belgium myself for 4 years on a posting to SHAPE at Mons. I just recalled a similar but opposite confusion on my part...
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Old 17th Nov 2009, 19:10
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A spitfire Pilot. Part 18.

News of old chums.

I still kept in touch with Dickie Freeborne, my ITW chum and we used to explain what each of were doing in our various theatres. Dickie always wanted to be a fighter pilot, as did most of us, instead of which, he got posted to Hampdens. I gather that their losses were pretty horrific and even if the aircraft got back they sometimes had a job winching the body of the rear gunner out. It didn’t sound very nice to me. In one letter, Dickie casually mentioned that he’d a bit of trouble over Brest and had to come back on one engine, it was bit hairy. I didn’t think a great deal about it, all sorts of strange things were happening in those days, but what amazed me was that not long after there was a piece on the radio about an officer who had done the same thing as Dickie and they made a big thing of it and the chap got the DFC. I don’t think Dickie even got a thank you.

It wasn’t all good news in March. I had a letter from Kay, Derek Olvers’ wife, saying that Derek had been killed on March 15th when he was instructing on Oxfords. From what I could gather, he was stationed up at Grantham and two of them had taken off in fairly close company and they were flying into the sun, lost track of each other and collided.
I think Derek was so bad, they wouldn’t let Kay go and identify him, which rather put a pall of gloom over everything. It was nothing unusual to lose a lot of people, but when they happened to be your close friends it did make you think a bit.

By March 1942 I’d got some 170 hours on Spitfires and really, it was a most beautiful aircraft, it rarely gave any mechanical trouble and was such joy to fly. It was very delicate on the controls and it gave you such a feeling of confidence, it just wasn’t true. I must admit that when setting out for any sweep or convoy patrol or whatever, you never really quivered with worry or fright, well at least 90% of us didn’t. You got in the aircraft and just wondered how many you’d shoot down that day. In my case it wasn’t many and not for a long time, but at least you felt that you had an aircraft that could outfight anything that the Germans had to offer.


72 Sqn – April 1942 - Sweeps, more sweeps and first “Confirmed” (or not?)


In April the weather took a turn for the better and we did a lot more sweeps. I think I did sixteen all told in April, which was about twice as many as I did in March and as usual we went to St Omer, Gravelines, Le Touquet. Le Touquet was quite good, you got a fair bit of flak from there, Dunkirk, Dieppe, Boulounge and so forth and with Brian Kingcome leading you, you could almost go to sleep, particularly if it was a Wing do and Jamie Rankin was flying as number 1 of the wing. Both of them were superb pilots, had phenomenal eyesight and were as cool and collected as anyone you could imagine. You had such confidence in them, you felt that, you know, you could happily doze in your cockpit until Brian called up and said,

“Right, here we go boys!”

Naturally, no one dozed in their cockpits, we all switched our heads from side to side and in and out and I was very thankful for the silk scarf Mum had bought me. Now that’s something that may seem a bit of a line-shoot when you see pilots with silk scarves dangling from their necks, but in actual fact it was most necessary, because you had to look, obviously, right, left and backwards and the visibility back in the Spit was not wonderful and if you just had a collar and tie, by the time you’d finished your first trip, your neck was so sore you couldn’t move. So we flew without ties and with a silk scarf round, because a.) it made it easier to swivel your head without being sore and b.) if you finished up in the drink at least you could wave your white silk scarf, at least that was the idea.

It wasn’t until the 14th April 1942 that I actually fired my guns in anger, which may seem a bit strange inasmuch as I’d joined an operational squadron at the end of September 1941, but even then there were people who’d been in longer than I had who’d never fired at anything apart from a ground target. On this occasion we’d been doing a sweep over Gris Nez and we got quite badly jumped and we were flung around in all directions and I managed to find a 190 which seemed to be a bit lost, so I fired like mad at it, but being over keen, anxious and a rotten shot, I didn’t allow enough deflection and all I did was waste a lot of ammunition, but it was quite exciting to get chased round and round.

As I said before, the joy of flying a Spit is that you can outturn anything and provided you had enough petrol, and there aren’t too many of the other aircraft, you can get away with it. Anyway, I nearly ran out of petrol on this occasion and I landed at Detling on the way back, got refuelled and went back to Biggin Hill, where we’d moved to from Gravesend on March 23rd.

We were getting a lot more flak when we went across to France now, but although we saw lots of enemy aircraft, they often wouldn’t play but would hover around the outside and I can’t think why. We were quite badly jumped on one occasion on 24th April and the squadron got split up and I and my number 2, an American, Pilot Officer Fran, got chased by a couple of 190s. Now I must admit the 190 is some aircraft. To start with it’s a lot faster than a Vb, it seems to have all the ammunition in the world and they’d start firing from miles out of range, which is sometimes a bit frightening, especially when you can see all the flashes coming from the gun-ports. Anyway, on this occasion one 190 shot down behind us and my number 2, like an idiot, decided he’d take off after it. I yelled at him to come back, because there was another 190 coming down behind my number 2. By this time there was really no hope for my number 2, because the second 190 overhauled him like mad and although I tried to chase down after him, I couldn’t get within range and my number 2 was shot down which although it was unfortunate at the time, was the only occasion in the whole of my ops career that I lost a number 2, which is not a bad record.

The 190 decided to stay and fight and we went round and round in circles for a while, which was alright from my point of view because the Spit would outturn anything and eventually I managed to get a few hits on him and he decided to call it a day and beetled off towards France. Now I followed, still banging away and he started to smoke and eventually was going down almost vertically at a heck of a lick, through a cloud base of about 2000’. Well I certainly wasn’t going to go through the cloud at that altitude at the speed we were doing, so I pulled up and came home. Now when I landed at Biggin Hill, the others had come back and the discussion was of various fights and Brian Kingcome was quite pleased with me when I explained what had happened, which was afterwards confirmed by my camera-gun. He asked me if I’d seen flames coming out of the enemy aircraft and I had to admit, no, just a wodge of black smoke and the rate at which it was going down. He said, “Well I can’t see anything coming out of that, I reckon you should have a “confirmed””, which made me highly delighted so I wrote in my log-book “One FW 190 Confirmed”.

About two days later I was told that the powers that be had decided that as I hadn’t seen flames coming out of the aircraft and hadn’t actually seen it crash then I could only have a probable, which was more than annoying.

Before we went on any sweep, all pilots had to attend a briefing and on 27th April we presented ourselves to the briefing room, on one wall of which was a large map covering Southern England and most of Northern France. They’d run strips of ribbon from Biggin Hill to wherever we were supposed to be going. Well on this occasion our piece of ribbon seemed to go on for miles and finished up over Lille. Now Lille wasn’t a very popular place with us and on this occasion we were taking twelve Bostons and it didn’t take a great deal of imagination for the Germans to realise where we were going once we’d crossed the coast.

We got flak nearly all the way but very few enemy aircraft until we got closer to Lille when we saw all their con-trails way above us. Now if we were told to stay at a certain height to protect the bombers, it’s uncomfortable when you see con-trails way above you and knowing that the Germans can pick their own time to come down and knock holes in you. Well I was flying number 2 to Jamie Rankin on this day and my job was to see that he got home alright. We got jumped as we expected, there was nothing we could do about it and, I must admit, I sweated blood. The 190s would come down in batches of four, two would make an attack and whilst we were trying to dodge those, the other two would come down, whilst the first two climbed up and then came down again. Jamie would wait till the last second before calling out to break. Now we were chased from Lille back over the Channel and I didn’t fire my guns once, I was far too busy trying to keep with Jamie and trying to avoid the 190s. Again, I ran out of fuel and had to land at Detling, get refuelled, then go back to Biggin.

The following day we had quite nice sweep between Gris Nez and Calais and it was much nearer home and that’s more my idea of fun and one 190 attacked ‘A’ Flight which was being led then by “Timber” Woods who had taken over from Pete Wickham. Now “Timber” and I managed to damage the 190 but he got away and no one else fired at all.

Last edited by johnfairr; 22nd Mar 2010 at 11:18.
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Peter Jensen's story.

During 1938, an advertisement appeared in the Australian newspapers offering applicants a chance to join the RAF on short term commissions. I applied, and so did thousands of other hopefuls. I was interviewed by a panel of Air Force officers at Victoria Barracks (Sydney) and heard no more. However, when war broke out a year later and I applied to join the RAAF, along with thousands of others. Confusion reigned, and in an attempt to get some order, in March 1940, an announcement was made in the newspapers for everyone who’d applied for the RAAF to apply again. Apparently, they’d lost all the initial applications!

Eventually, I was called up for an interview and a medical examination, told I was accepted for pilot training, given a lapel badge and told to wait for a call-up. In the meantime, I spent three hours two nights a week at the gas company’s office at Eastwood learning basic Morse code, aerodynamics, navigation and maths. The word eventually came to present myself at the Dalgety’s building at Woolloomooloo, and on 2nd February 1941, where we took the oath, handed in our lapel badges and boarded a bus for No 2 Initial training Depot at Bradfield Park.

At last, I was in the Air Force!

In due course, we arrived at Bradfield Park – a grim collection of corrugated iron buildings and a hard stony parade ground. We were issued with a uniform and other clothing and went on a life of mind-bashing lessons and square-bashing drill. It was a particularly hot summer, and combined with the inoculations and vaccinations, this made the going extremely tough. Some of the chaps couldn’t stand the pace and disappeared from sight without fanfare.

One day we were marched down to the rifle range for our first shoot with .303 SMLE rifles. We were shooting from a corrugated iron building, which was like an echo chamber. When the first men were shooting, I could feel the concussion on my eardrums and asked a corporal if there were any ear plugs, but the answer was “no”. When my time came to shoot, I plugged my left ear with the end of my handkerchief, took aim and fired. I felt as if a bullet had gone into one ear and out the other and my ears were blocked with a loud screaming noise. I finished the rounds in the magazine and stood up. I could hear nothing but the scream in my ears, and decided that my ear drums were ruptured and I was probably deafened for life. What to do? I knew that if I reported sick I would be discharged – what ignominy!! I imagined going back to Hungerford Spooner (my old employer) and saying I couldn’t make the grade! It was unthinkable, so I decided to tough it out.

After shooting instruction, we were marched back to barracks and later out to the parade ground for rifle drill. I got myself in the back row, and as I couldn’t hear the orders, I just followed the bloke in front.

For the next few days, I managed to get away with it in the class room. I sneaked glimpses of what the fellow next to me was writing and would write the same in my book. Slowly, my hearing came back, and after a week or so, I could hear reasonably well, but I told no one about the problem and hoped it would never be discovered. However, to this day, I have tinnitus and if I am ever subject to loud noises, it starts my ears ringing again.

After a month at Bradfield Park, we were marched into the drill hall and told that the musterings we had on entry had been cancelled and that we would now be re-mustered. There were three officers sitting at a table on the stage and we were told to sit on the floor and as our name was called out, we had to stand up at attention while the officers sized us up and pronounced – pilot, navigator or WOP/AG.

After a while, it became obvious how the selection method worked. The big athletic blokes became pilots, the studious, intelligent ones navigators, and the dregs were WOP/AGs. When my name came, I bounced to my feet, stood as tall as I could, puffed out my chest – all to no avail – the dreaded initials were uttered – “WOP/AG”.

The next day, we WOP/AGs were marched back to the drill hall and told that of the 152 of us, 80 were to remain in Australia for training and 72 were to go to Canada. Problem: how to sort us out, as they would like to give each person what he wished.

“First of all,” said the officer, “naturally, the married men will want to stay in Australia, so all those married, go over to the wall.”

Some of our number crossed the room.

“Now,” said the officer, “Any others who wish to stay in Australia, go over and join them.”

Several others crossed the room.

By this stage, the married chaps were grumbling amongst themselves and one called out “Why can’t we go to Canada?”

“OK,” said the officer, “Anyone wanting to go to Canada, come back here.”

Some of them returned. Numbers were counted and it was found that 80 wanted to stay in Australia and 72 wanted to go to Canada!! We were then sent home for the weekend and we “Canadians” were told to report to the Embarkation Depot on Monday.

Last edited by Wiley; 3rd Feb 2010 at 00:33. Reason: Typos, amended information from PJ
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