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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 30th Dec 2009, 02:07
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regle collars and service pistols

Hi Regle,

So, the mighty collar studs reigned supreme! Glad to hear it - none of these wimpy sewn-ons...

I do remember the separate collars from my time in the ATC in the '60s. My front collar stud, the long one, rubbed my Adam's apple raw until I got used to it. When I joined, the ATC was cutting over from the old 1920s dog collar tunics, and we had one lanky out-of-measure lad who had to wear one for a good few months until a BD was found for him. He looked like Aircraftman Lawrence...
I joined the RAF as a 16 year old Boy Entrant (38th Entry Telegraphist II, RAF Cosford) in 1959. When I was demobbed in 1973 the official issue shirts still had seperate collars.
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Old 30th Dec 2009, 11:59
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When I joined as an apprentice in 1963, we were issued with the old belted and skirted hairy tunic uniforms and we all looked like AC2 Lawrence for the first year until we were eventually issed with "battledress" in the second and third years. Later on - about 1972 I think - airmen finally got sewn-on collars and were rid of the collar studs, but it took a year or so the before the green spot on my neck had faded away and disappeared.
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Old 30th Dec 2009, 19:20
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 34

Prisoners Escort

We were always having the odd a-rab* wandering round our tents and aircraft. They were all spies for all we knew, but they used to carry chickens and eggs and oranges and we used to argue with them about how much we had to pay for eggs and so forth and used our few francs to augment our supplies. There was a bit of a spy-scare on one occasion and a very black a-rab, who was thought to be a spy, because he’d been asking all sorts of questions in broken English and the CO decided that if he was a spy he’d best be taken down to the police station in Souk-el-Arba. I was given the job of escorting him down the road. So I collected my trusty .38, I didn’t have a holster for it, I had to carry the thing in my hand.

Anyway I marched this chap down to the police station and explained what we thought in very poor French, but it turned out he was one of the local characters who went round asking everybody questions day and night so they booted him into a cell, locked the door, said thank you to me and I walked off. But coming back I walked through a little bit of the town and there was a tobacconist which was really like a small stable. It had a door that opened sort of halfway from the top and the proprietor would stand inside, doling out the tobacco and there was an enormous queue waiting for this tobacco ration and when the proprietor decided he’d had enough and was going to shut up, there was a big clamour for him to open the door and start selling again, so he turns round, picks up a club and leans over the bottom of the door and slams away at all the arabs who are standing outside and eventually they packed up and cleared off.

I’d been flying every day since we landed at Maison Blanche, sometimes two or three times a day and latterly in the mixed squadron and on one occasion, Bob Oxspring was leading us and I had a member of 93 as my number 2. We were doing a sweep over Bizerta and we came across a batch of Ju 88s and an enormous gaggle of 109s covering them and I think we numbered somewhere about ten all told. Anyway we piled in to see what we could do and managed to knock down one or two and I found myself tackling a 109E which was quite unusual in those days, because you either met 109Fs or Gs or 190s. Anyway, with my 93 number 2, I tagged on to the 109 and as he pulled up and away I took a long shot at him and his port aileron came off and he went down in a great flutter and a spin, so we wrote him off and I was given a “Confirmed”.

Two days later Nelson-Edwards of 93 was leading our flights and I was leading the port flight with Pete Fowler behind me and a couple of other chaps from the squadron and the rest was made up by the 93 boys. We were on our way home from Tunis and we saw a Ju 88 belting back towards Tunis, with no escort and as I was the nearest section, Nelson Edwards told me to take over and have a look at it, while he’d keep top cover. It was a fairly straight forward bounce in as much as the 88 was making for cloud some way away and I just had to come down straight on top of him. Now the rear gunner started firing at me and I could see the tracer peeling off to my left and I sat there thinking, well that’s alright and it wasn’t until afterwards that I realised that although the smoke from the tracer might be wafting away on your left or right, the actual bullets were carrying straight on and weren’t peeling off any where. Anyway, I took on the rear-gunner first of all to get rid of him and then carried on firing and blew the port engine off and it spun in and by that time we were on top of the clouds, so I shot straight through, came out the other side and I’d lost my section, who’d pulled up when they came to the cloud, inasmuch as there was nothing left to chase, apart from me, and when I came out into the clear I found I was tagging along with half a dozen 109s, which had been the bombers escort presumably, and lost him.

I was some way behind them and running out of ammunition and a long way from home, so I called up the rest of the section and said come down under the clouds and give me a hand, but no one did, so I thought, well, there’s no point in hanging around and I gradually slowed down and let them get well ahead of me, then turned and belted for home.

* There's no point in being politically correct where you are quoting someone, just tell it like it was told to you. If that offends people, well, I make no apology for my fathers' memoirs!
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Old 30th Dec 2009, 23:34
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Who wants apologies ?

Johnfairr, your Father's memoirs are a breath of fresh air and need no apologies. He tells it in such a way that one can easily build up an idea of his character i.e straight talking, down to earth and not afraid to state his mind when needed. Would that we had someone like that leading our country today.! Alas she left too soon ! I wish you and all who use this Forum a very Happy, Healthy and dare I hope, a Prosperous New Year.? I had a lovely Xmas with some of my family still in Brussels and drove there and back via the Tunnel with no problems at all. Am off to buy myself a Wii soon as I got inveigled into it and found that I could still play a very good game of Table Tennis and also scored over 190 the first time I bowled ! I must confess that I was too scared to jump out of the plane when the Sky Diving came up. Thank Heavens that I never had to parachute throughout my career !
God Bless you Merry Gentlemen (and Ladies... I know a few who visit this column regularly ! ) Regle.
 
Old 31st Dec 2009, 07:52
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Regle, I assume you are talking about Queen Victoria?

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Old 31st Dec 2009, 10:58
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Thanks to Johnfair.

* There's no point in being politically correct where you are quoting someone, just tell it like it was told to you. If that offends people, well, I make no apology for my fathers' memoirs!
JOHN,
Apologise ? Cor blymey, I think you had a record number of hits yesterday. I make it 772, any one confirm ?.

Many thanks for giving our tired fingers a rest.
CLIFF.
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Old 31st Dec 2009, 11:44
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Tabbybadger

"We are not amused " ! Regle
 
Old 31st Dec 2009, 13:37
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 35

Chas Charnock and George Malan take centre stage

George Malan had gone off to get married before we left England and hadn’t reached us by the end of November and consequently I did a fair amount of flying with Chas, either as his number 2 or 3 or anywhere in his section. It didn’t really matter because as we were normally jumped or broken up, it was a free-for-all. After one of these rather brisk exchanges, I hadn’t managed to hit anything, on the other hand, nothing had hit me, but Chas was shot down. He landed quite close to an English army group and when he was dragged into the trenches, the first thing that the officer said to him was,

“I see you’re a member of the rival establishment”, because Chas always flew with an Old Harrovian scarf round his neck and the officer, apparently, came from Eton!

Anyway, Chas eventually came back. Incidentally, he found a monastery on the way back where you could get red wine quite cheaply and he spoke to me the following day and said that the army officer had pleaded with him to send him up some clean underwear. They’d been living in little holes for weeks on end and were filthy dirty and could we help? So for Chas that was quite a simple operation and he arranged to get loads of clean underclothes and he and I would go out and find this place where the army was, drop the underwear and beetle off home. Well the CO decided that no, we weren’t going to go, and that was that.

I don’t know where he’d have got the clean underwear in any case, because the rest of our gear hadn’t arrived.

Chas was quite a character, he’d been a commissioned officer pre-war, been court martialled and slung out. He joined again at the beginning of the war as a Sergeant Pilot, went through the Battle of Britain, picked up a DFM and continued on ops for years. He looked as old as the hills and I gather he was 37 at the time I knew him, but he could still outfly and outshoot anyone on the squadron and he definitely was one of the real characters.

He got hold of a 15 cwt truck and drove up to this monastery he’d seen on the way back from being shot down and he’d taken lots of washed-out four-gallon petrol cans and filled them up with red wine at a very cheap price and brought the whole lot back to us. Now the only things we had to drink from were large, white enamelled mugs and if you pour red wine in those, you have to pour a lot in before it looks as though you’ve got any in at all. Consequently we half-filled these mugs with red wine and all sat around enjoying ourselves.

The only snag was the following day. I woke up in the morning, not really with a headache, but my head just wouldn’t leave the ground – I felt like death. So we decided that maybe red wine wasn’t for us if we were to go on flying.

On 27th November, we lost Johnny Lowe, we got in one of our usual tangles and by the time we’d returned to base, Johnny wasn’t with us and his body wasn’t found for some time. He’d crash-landed or been shot down not too far from the aerodrome

On the last day of November George Malan arrived together with one or two other chaps and also some decent tents, the rest of our gear and proper camp-beds, which made a world of difference. George and I started flying together again, it was just like old times and on one occasion I was leading with starboard flight on one of our half squadron efforts with our flight commander, Krohn, leading, and we were going, as usual, between Bizerta and Tunis and I noticed a couple of 109Fs just on the port side, in fact, almost had they come in much closer they’d have been formating on our port section. So I called up the 93 chap who was leading us, explained the position and I quite thought he’d send a section off to have a go at them, but nothing happened, so I called up again, with a similar message and still nothing happened, so I thought, well, pot this, and with George I swung underneath the flights and came out to have a go at these 109s. They didn’t want to play, one disappeared entirely up high and one started to go down. Now that one seemed to be the one for us, so we started belting down after it, but I’m afraid it was getting away from us and suddenly we got messages from the chap leading our semi-squadron, screeching at us to come back and reform and come back and reform and as we couldn’t get the 109F anyway, we reluctantly pulled up and came back. When we landed at Souk-el-Arba, I got quite a rocket from the flight commander for leaving the squadron. So I did explain to him that I’d rather shoot down a 109 than have the 109 sit there and shoot me down and if he couldn’t lead the flight properly he’d better let somebody else do it!

Later in the month Krohn was taken off the squadron strength and David Cox took over A Flight and to even matters up I was posted to B Flight, which was rather sad because I’d been in A Flight with 72 ever since I joined.

I’ve previously mentioned what a beautiful aircraft the Spit was and what little trouble we had with it, but I’m afraid out in North Africa things weren’t quite so good. What with the tropical modification we had on it and the general lack of proper maintenance facilities, we had quite a bit of trouble and on one or two occasions I had to come back for odd things such as an oiled-up windscreen, r/t u/s, and various other oddments that caused us a bit of trouble. They also took out the two outboard machine guns in order to lighten the aircraft and get a bit more speed out of it, so we finished up with two cannons and two machine guns but it was still enough to shoot something down if you got in the right position.
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Old 1st Jan 2010, 16:11
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 35

Bob Oxspring was leading us on a sweep over Zibideja and we were obviously searching for anything we could shoot up and we saw what we thought were bomb-burst down below, not far from a place called Meturr. Now we weren’t really sure whether we were over our lines or the Germans, there was no actual line that you could spot from the air. From what we could gather most of the fighting was done from little holes in the ground in odd spots here and there. Anyway, Bob Oxspring told me to go down and have a look and in the meantime he called up a squadron of Lightnings (The USAAC Lockheed P-38 Lightning, a twin-boomed, twin-engine fighter) which were way above us, and explained that he’d sent a section down and he was going to stay and give me cover and would the Lightnings stay and give him cover? But fortunately we were all on the same r/t channel. The Lightnings, said,

“Yes, OK, OK, we’ll do that”, so with George Malan as my number 2, Owen Hardy as number 3, down I went.

We were bounced by a wad of 190s on the way down, so I called up Bob and said, could we have a little assistance, because we were quite busy, and he started to send somebody down to help us and the next thing we knew the Lightnings had attacked him so he had to bring the section back, and try and get out of the way of the Lightnings and leave us to our fate.

We managed to avoid the 190s that bounced us on the way down and going down lower still I saw two 190s, one behind the other. Now the first one was coming across in front of us and George thought that I hadn’t seen it, so instead of being a good boy and staying as my number 2, he shot past over the top of me to have a crack at the 190 and started firing like mad and all his discarded bullet cases were pouring down on top of me. But what George hadn’t realised was, that there was another 190 behind the one he was shooting at and the 190 happily slid in behind George and shot him down. Well we all had a crack at these 190s, I had a go at the last one and eventually after much toing and froing I managed to shoot it down and came back. I was very upset over George, because I was quite certain that he’d been shot down and finished, but apart from crash-landing, he managed to get picked up by the army and came back to us alright.

As I said, there was no marked front-line, merely a matter of finding little holes in the ground with soldiers sitting in them. So one day, George and I were doing a low sweep just to see what we could shoot up, when we came across a tank. It was the only one we ever saw out there and not knowing a German from an English tank we went down quite low and I can see George now. He was flying round this tank at nought feet, wingtip almost touching the ground, calling out,

“It’s got two little wheels in the front, two little wheels at the back and three big wheels in the middle”

Well that didn’t mean a thing to me, but I didn’t see any Nazi crosses on it, so I assumed it was one of ours and we let it go. In any case I doubt very much whether a 20mm shell would have done much damage to it.

Wing Commander “Sheep” Gilroy joined us about this time and he used to take us on the odd sweep. I was flying number 3, but in fact I was the last man in the section, inasmuch as we hadn’t got have enough bodies to make up number 4 and Gilroys’ idea was to get up high and come down at a fair old rate, shoot across whichever area we were going, in the hope that we’d catch something napping and at the rate we were going we stood a fair chance.

(Distorted ….end of tape)


Well, I was talking to myself and Gilroy said,

“Open up, open up!”

I just said, “I can’t go any bloody faster!” and lo and behold a voice comes back over the r/t, saying.

“OK, OK, we’ll slow down and keep together.”

What I hadn’t realised was that in the particular aircraft I was flying, the r/t was operated by voice as opposed to switching the little switch on as we normally do.

We had a pretty rough day on 5th December. I did two sweeps, one was quite quiet, nothing much happened; I went out on the other one and the engine was so rough, I couldn’t do a thing with it, I couldn’t keep up, so I had to gently ease my way home and land on my own. The other lads got bounced later on and we lost three pilots, MacDonald, an Australian chap who’d been with us at Biggin Hill and Sergeant Moxom and Sergeant Brown. They’d both joined the squadron quite late and weren’t too experienced, but no one seemed to know what had happened to them.

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Old 1st Jan 2010, 17:19
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Johnfairr...

....and it's getting better. All the ti..i..me. Regle.
 
Old 2nd Jan 2010, 12:03
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 35

John

Your fathers tapes are wonderful and I hope you don't mind me adding a post here to ask a question of you. Your father and my grandfather flew together on 72 Squadron in North Africa. My grandfather's name was Riversdale Robert "Barney" Barnfather and I have already written a book about his wartime life as a Spitfire pilot that was published in 2007 by the History Press.During the research for his book and by using his log book as a base I tracked down some of his former colleagues among them Tom Hughes and Rodney Scrase who also flew with him and your father in North Africa and who are both still alive. Rodney Scrase has asked me to write his story and that is due to be published again by the History Press this year. Would it be possible to include some quotes form your fathers tapes in this book ?

Regards

Gus
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Old 2nd Jan 2010, 20:06
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72 Sqn Memoirs

Hi John,

I am new to the forum (though I have been in the RAF for 32 years! I also thought it was a forum for juvenile, high testosterone fast jet pilots! Nothing could be further from the truth (mostly|)! In my defence I am a Support helicopter crewman (real flying at low level!)). I had no idea PPrune was so interesting! I am absolutely fascinated by your fathers memoirs. There are a number of reasons for this - a) It is a bloody excellent story, b) I have written three volumes of 72 Sqn history entitled Swift To Battle, and I wish I had found your fathers memoirs and you much sooner - what an addition to the first and second volume they would have made. c) I am membership secretary of the 72 Sqn Association - would you like to join us as a Friend of 72 Sqn Association?

I see Angus Mansfield has posted just before me about your father (Hello Angus, nice to see you are on here too). Rodney Scrase is the 72 Sqn Assoc president and Tom Hughes is a member, as are a few others of your father's era such as Dicky Bird, Jack Lancaster and Laurie Frampton.

Have you any intention of having the memoirs published? I think they would do very well. Angus is also a member of the Assoc and his father's biography is a very good read. Perhaps you would like to collaborate with him in writing a book?

So far I have only 'speed read' the forum entries, but I have cut and paste all of yours into a word document so I can read it all in one go! If you want more info about 72 Sqn Assoc or to add to your father's memoirs send me a message - I have copies of all of the 72 Sqn Operations Record Book. I am looking forward to your next instalment on PPrune.

Yours aye

Tom Docherty
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Old 2nd Jan 2010, 20:26
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RJR

Hi John,

Further to my last entry ref your father's memoirs I have a number of photos of him you may be interested in if you do not already have them. Drop me a line.

Yours

Tom

(Just had a look for my other entry but cannot find it - though the administrator did say when I tried to post (probably as it was my first) that it would be posted pending approval - will have to keep an eye out for it!)

Last edited by tomdocherty72; 2nd Jan 2010 at 20:39. Reason: Add more info
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 11:21
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Interim Note

Gentlemen, ie Angus and Tom.

Thank you for your interest in the memoirs of my father. I have already been in touch with Tom and also a chap called Erik Manning, who is the official 72 Sqn Historian.

For clarification, I have placed a copy of these memoirs in the Imperial War Musuem, as well as a copy of the actual audio, on DVD. Erik and Tom have also received electronic copies for their own use. His log book has been copied for reference. Copyright is vested jointly with me and the IWM and I have no objection whatsoever to Angus including whatever he deems fit in his next project.

There is not much more to go, about 6 pages, so I'll crack on with the narrative.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 11:23
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PHOTOS

HI TOM
Further to my last entry ref your father's memoirs I have a number of photos of him you may be interested in if you do not already have them. Drop me a line
.

If you and John agree, please post the photos on this thread and on 'Photos of everyone'.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 11:26
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A Spitfire Pilot - Part 36

Making a Pigs of Identification, in the Air and on the Ground


On 14th December it was decided to give me a rest and we had an aircraft that was due to be taken back to Algiers for replacement. It had a bullet through the main spar and wasn’t any good operationally and in fact it probably wasn’t any good anyway. So they took the guns and ammunition out and I was told to fly it to Algiers, pick up a spare and come back. It seemed like quite a simple job. Anyway, I took off and flew very gently back towards Algiers. On the way back I spotted two Lightnings and as I’ve said before, we were all on the same r/t channel, which was a right bind sometimes, as the Americans started talking, you couldn’t get a word in. I was continuing on my way, when I heard the Americans call up and say they’d spotted a 109. Now that, didn’t please me a great deal inasmuch as I was flying an aircraft with the main spar damaged, so I couldn’t throw it about too much. In any case I had no guns. So I weaved gently from side to side, trying to spot this 109, and the more I listened to the Americans, the more I realised the 109 was me! So I called them up and explained very carefully that the 109 they thought was a Spitfire and showed them by flying up on the side so that they could see the shape of a Spitfire wing, which by that time should have been fairly familiar with anybody.

“OK, OK”, they said and flew away, and on I trundled to Algiers.

Just before I got there, the same two Lightnings, who apparently had gone off looking for something else, again spotted a 109 and when I looked round, there they are, just behind me. So again, I called up and flew around in a circle to show them a Spitfire and I said,

“It’s the same bloody Spitfire that you nearly shot down some miles back, now BUGGAR OFF!” and with that I continued on and landed at Algiers.

Now Maison Blanche was at this time an absolute mad house. It was a mass of aircraft with millions of them on the ground and there seemed to be thousands of them doing circuits and bumps and everything else. But I managed to get in and taxi to the only dispersal that I saw which had a few Spitfires round it and got out an explained that I’d brought this aircraft from Souk-el-Arba and please could I have a spare and fly back again. Well, by this time it was getting towards late afternoon and I wouldn’t have had time to get back to Souk-el-Arba in the light and there was no way I could have landed on in the dark down there, so they told me to find somewhere to sleep and call in the morning.

There didn’t appear to be any spare beds anywhere at all and I couldn’t get in the mess, but I chatted up a couple of sergeants who were on the groundcrew and they explained that each night they would get in a lorry and hike off about five miles to some little village, where they used to sleep behind some estaminet or pub, and there was room for me there if I cared to go. Well that suited me fine, so I joined them and got in this lorry and disappeared off to this little village, the name of which I do not know, and it was very pleasant. I think the spare bed they’d mentioned, happened to be in a loft, which was approached by a rickety ladder, and although the bed itself was just a mass of straw, at least it had sheets. That was the first time I’d slept between sheets since I could remember and I had a very pleasant nights’ sleep.

The owner of the estaminet said he’d drive us into Maison Blanche in the morning if we got up early, so all three of us were up and ready by about half past six to find nothing moving at all. There was a small van outside the estaminet and the proprietor was wandering around doing odd bits and pieces. He’d fill up umpteen bottles of wine which he placed in the van, and they’d be followed by boxes of vegetables, then he’d come back, sit in the estaminet and have a coffee and a roll, and so did we, and finally he got a most ginormous pig and stuck this pig in the van as well!

The seating arrangements left much to be desired, but I let one of the sergeants sit in the front seat next to the driver, mainly because he was nearer the front end of the pig than we were. The other sergeant and I sat in the back of the van on boxes and protected from the rear end of the pig by more boxes. Well the old Frenchman shut the back doors, got in the front and away we went. Now all went well for a while until the pig apparently got a bit fed up with being stuck in this van and proceeded to grunt and rip everything within sight. The boxes went for a Burton first of all and then he started trying to edge forward and rip up bits of floorboard – it was a most frightening experience, made more so by the fact that every now and again the driver would turn round and with one hand on the wheel, not looking were he was going, and thump the pig smartly over the head. Eventually we decided we’d had enough of this and managed to get the driver to stop and we piled out very gratefully and finished the journey by walking back to Maison Blanch
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 12:49
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72 Sqn photos

Happy to do that when I get home from work if John agrees.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 13:43
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Tom, don't get delayed in the Red Beastie on the way home.
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 14:11
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Hi to 72 Squadron

Nice to see you guys made it here from "the other forum"
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Old 3rd Jan 2010, 15:06
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Tom, I'm not a great techno-chappie, so if you could post the piccies you sent me, with captions, that would be great.

Don't bother with the "Pictures of Everyone" thread, as Cliff suggested. That is for, dare I say it, living contributors!!

I'm already there in a very fetching pink shirt . . . . . .

Last edited by johnfairr; 3rd Jan 2010 at 15:28.
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