Biography of Peter A. Weston

Lancaster Radio Operator/Radar Navigator, Squadron 186, Stradishall / 45 Sqdn, Tengah Malaya / 209 Sqdn, FEAF Singapore - Iwakuni Japan, RAF

The music is "White Cliffs of Dover", they would be the first thing to see on your way back home from a daylight raid on a northerly heading from France

   Odds and Ends from my memoirs. My memoirs were for my Family at their requests and for the relatives of my many good friends that were killed in action WW2, the Campaign in Malaya and in Korea, I served in all 3 on operations. I served in the Lancaster Squadron 186 in the United Kingdom, Stradishall, during World War II, Squadron 209 in Japan during Korean War.  I was radar, radio operator and navigator. Although I was not a pilot later on was fully certificated to act as second pilot on limited duties.

     "Early beginings". First flight with Alan Cobhams Flying circus at Eastleigh Southampton Airport about 1931 or 1932 in a Armstrong Whitworth W8 or something very close to it, I was about 7 years old at the time. My father told me some time later that he paid 5 shillings for himself and 2/6 pence for me sitting on his knee, I remember the flight fairly well and from that time on I was hooked, line and sinker.

     I started work at" Supermarine Aviation" works at Woolston in 1938, located facing the river Itchen, Woolston was an area within Southampton. I joined as an apprentice for a 7 year apprenticeship leading finally to becoming an aircraft ground engineer. For this opportunity my father had to pay the company cash to them so that they would pay me. We also had to attend the apprentice school located in the main office building where the Drawing office was, once or twice a week.

     

     Discuss Spitfire production, Flying boats, Flight testing, Visits by German commercial flying boats and Floatplanes to woolston.

     The designer of the Schneider Trophy Supermarine float planes and of the Spitfire was R. J. Mitchell, the most well known of the float planes was the S. 6B. it was the first plane to exceed 400 mph. in 1931 at 407. 5mph. The first flight of the Spitfire, K5040, took place at Eastleigh airport ( outskirts of my hometown of Southampton. England) on March 5th. 1936 by our chief test pilot J. ' Mutt ' Summers. Sadly, R. J. Mitchell died in 1937 aged 42.

The picture shows the front of Supermarine Works facing the river and the Prototype Sea Otter coming down the slip for its first flight. The building on the left are the Main offices, R. J. 's office is in the second lot of windows down from the top.

     The Flight shed, with the slipway leading down to the river, was the sole domain of the flying boats. All around this area and further into the factory was for Spitfire production. At that time in 1938 Mk. 1 and Mk 2 were on the production lines. I was first started on wing construction, then onto fuselages, the tailplane and fin units and other bits and pieces etc. always with a very experienced craftsman to teach us. From here I was shifted to the flight shed to work on the flying boats, mainly Stanraers and Walrus. I enjoyed this period because they were finished aircraft and we would talk to the Test pilot who did, nearly always, flight test the boats and he wasFlt. Lt. Pickering. Some of the boats were in for overhaul also, such as a couple of Scapa's.

     When a Walrus was to to be test flown, Flt. Lt. Pickering, when the tide was high, would start up and gently ease down the ramp into the river and take off over the ferries that crossed the river, sometimes scaring the pants off the crews who quite often shook their fist to him, this amused him and would make remarks about it. At the finish of the test he would fly very low over the river, by low I mean about 300 feet or so, in front of the flight shed and loop the Walrus to signal that it had passed the test, if not, he would just land and return up the slip and it would be worked upon. If you havent seen a Walrus looped, you havent lived. Another aircraft that I had worked on was the replacement for the Walrus, the Prototype "Sea Otter". Compared to the Walrus, It was what you could call a streamlined version of it, very neat and tidy with the Bristol Mercury engine mounted in the centre of the top wing and was what we used to call a " puller ", whereas the Walrus engine was a "pusher". The second Sea Otter was destroyed in an air raid later on.

     The visits by the German civilian marine aircraft always created great interest. There were two types, one was a "Dornier Wal 26"flying boat and the other was a"Blom und Voss" H. A. 139 floatplane. They were beautifly painted and looked very well kept There was a large black Swastika against a white and red background on the fin and rudder. They were classified as "Mailplanes "?, most of the workers said they were spy planes. They were not allowed to land on the river Itchen, they had to land at Hythe near the B. O. A. C. flying boat base where a B. O. A. C. launch would lead them up the Solent, turning into the river to our works where our men were waiting to moor them to our landing stage next to the slipway. Customs people and other officials would go on board and finally the crew and any passengers were allowed off.

     I had to visit the paint shop to collect some thing for my tutor,the shop was located across the road from the main entrance,it was where all the spray painting was carried out ,ie Spitfire components, wings, fuselage,etc. On the floor above, it used to be the lofting room where wooden mock ups were made of prototypes and experimental types and high up in the rafters was what looked like a Spitfire fuselage with a rounded nose where the engine would normally be and an engine bulkhead each side of it on the wings, it was terribly dusty. When I asked about it I was told that it was originally for a twin engined Spitfire but the idea was abandoned. Since that day I have never heard mention of it anywhere. Going back a little, either just before the war or just after,we were told to expect aircraft from the Stranraer Sdn at R. A. F. Calshot, which was just down the Solent from us. They were to be camouflaged Sea Green and Grey very quickly, there would be 12 altogether and would arrive 3 at a time. They arrived shortly afterwards and were right away hauled out first thing in the morning and pounced upon by the painters and working all night (there was always a night shift) they were ready to be picked up next morning, this pace was kept up until all 12 were done, believe me that was good going. This happened in September 1939.

Lead into Eastleigh Works,flight testing, Bombing of Woolston works.

     In August 1940, I had reached the age of 16 and been working at the Woolston works for 2 years. At this time myself and 2 other apprentices were sent to the flight shed at Eastleigh airport, where the Spitfires were assembled and flight tested. We were each assigned to an experienced craftsman. I enjoyed the environment there, It was completely different and exciting to see aircraft that you had been working on being prepared for air testing. Sometimes we would work outside and assist in preparing the aeroplanes for flight test. The chief test pilot was Jeffery Quill, he seemed to do most of the flying but also Alex Henshaw was there, (he was well known and famous for his record breaking flights pre war. ) along with one or two others. The pilots would taxi out from the apron onto the grass and take off in almost any direction regardless of the wind factor. The duration of the tests were normally about 20 minutes. Meanwhile I would be standing about 50 feet or so from the apron, on the grass area with a pot of dope and paint brush in hand along with fabric patches. A Spitfire would land and taxi to me and the pilot point to the ailerons or to the elevators and more than often, to both. During the tests the aircraft are to be dived to around 400 M. P. H. and this sometimes causes the fabric on the ailerons and elevators to be ripped, so I, while engine was running would have to dash around,put dope over the area of the rip, put a patch of fabric on and dope over it again, the dope dried almost immediately. I would give the thumbs up sign and off they would go at full throttle, tail up almost immediately, and airborne.

     The works were often host to various groups of people, and military officers from foreign countries. Some that come to mind, groups from The Ministry of aircraft production, France, Belgium, and watch a flying display of Spitfires, also the walrus, flown by Flt. Lt. Pickering who would do his famous loop in it. One day a group from France were there on a perfect sunny cloudless afternoon watching Jeffery Quill in a Spitfire, do his display,he finished by going very fast and low in front of them, and he vanished from view. They were still looking to the front. Jeffrey Quill had gone around to the back of the hangars behind them, going full out, he came back between the hangars below roof level and made everyone jump out of their wits, including we who were also watching, he finished with a victory roll and landed just a few feet from the visitors. To say they were impressed would be putting it mildly.

     A few weeks earlier while still with Supermarine, Cunliffe Owen had been bombed and we had seen it all. The sirens had sounded and as usual everyone made for the shelters behind the factory across the Eastleigh/ Southampton road but my mentor said we would be going to the woods further away. When we got there we found most of the others were there too, and soon we saw aircraft,there were 3 HE. 111K,s we could see the bombs fall and they struck one of the back hangars, some bombs fell harmlesly on the grass surface of the airfield causing a few craters. Cunliffe Owen had a large calibre machine gun mounted on a truck, it was reported that they had shot down one of the raiders. later it was confirmed that indeed they had.

     On the way home, after work, we had to pass Cunliffe Owen's to catch a bus further down the road, and we saw a long row of bodies, all were covered, there appeared to be quite a lot and to a young boy of just only past his 16th. birthday it was a traumatic experience despite being subjected to many air raids on Southampton.

     I asked if I could transfer to Cunliffe Owen because of overcrowding in our dept due to the overflow of our workers from the bombed out factory and all agreed OK.

     Start of work at Cunliffe Owen Aircraft Company Ltd.

     I commenced work at Cunliffe's without delay, in the Flight shed as promised, on the aircraft as below.

Bristol Blenheims. Mk. 1 and the long nose Mk. I V.

Douglas Boston & Havoc's

Curtiss Tomahawk's

Bell Airacobra's

Curtiss Mowhawk's

Handley Page Hampden's

Lockheed Hudson's

     The Blenheims would be flown in by the Sqdns pilots for modifications and to be refurbished, they looked well used.One of the main mods were to remove the under the nose entrance\escape hatch and fit a replacement with a rearward firing machine gun and other parts, ie, cartridge stowage, mirror for rear view. This applied to both Mk.1& IV.Also some of each were fitted with a fitting that had 4 machine guns that were partly enclosed in the bomb bay along with ammunition boxes.

     Moving on to the Boston's and Havoc's.The Bostons I believe, needed to have some slight changes made to suit the R.A.F. There wasn't anything big,some I think was to do with the intercom, but I do know that ashtrays had to be removed and when they were, they vanished immediately. The Havocs were of two types,one, with a large searchlight in the nose that required electrical power mods to be updated plus a few other small items here and there. The other type was the Night Intruder version which had four guns in the nose, and they had extra equipment installed for the radar interception of German night fighters, they looked very battered and needed quite a lot of cleaning up.

Bell Aircobra's } All these aircraft had to be assembled.

Curtiss Tomahawks }

Curtiss Mohawks }

     All these aircraft arrived at Southampton Docks in very large crates and brought to the works. The crates would be put into the flight shed up to the limit we could handle and the rest would be stacked up outside. The front of the crate would be opened and the wings slid out first followed by the fuselage which would be put on supports and then the wheels would be lowered and the wings would then be attached. It would then be pushed forward to the front of the flight shed to make room for the others. When the line up was complete, work would start immediately on completing all the many jobs that had to be done to make it ready for flight testing. Included in the crates were a magnificent set of tools which seemed to vanish very quickly untill the management decreed that all tool sets would be handed in to the main stores. The same system was also used for all of the above aircraft. Regarding the Mohawks, they were originally intended for the French Air Force but because France had been occupied by the German forces, they had been diverted to England. Even though the Aircobra's, like the others, arrived ready to be assembled, we at first had much trouble in lining up some of the components but some American Air Force people visited us and matters were put right because of certain tools that had not been supplied, so all was well. When some of the aircraft had been flight tested (by Cunliffe Owens chief test pilot Capt. Bebb and assisted by Flt. Lt. Murray who was on loan to us from the Royal Air Force) and had passed all tests, pilots from the Squadrons that were to receive them would turn up most likely in a Hudson flown by a pilot of the A. T. S. All the aircraft were lined up ready to go on the front apron, the pilots,who brought their own parachutes would settle in and run the engines for a while and then taxi out for take off. In this particular case it concerned the Tomahawks. We knew how the fighter boys were going to react, as soon as the wheels were up they would keep low and fast keeping it at grass cutting height aimed straight at the flight shed doors and then pull up just missing the top of the hangar by mere inches and after all that it turned into a free for all.They would come in from all directions and this would cause a general stoppage of work while everyone enjoyed the show. Captain Bebb, who was a very staid man, would get very annoyed and go in to his office, come out armed with his Verey pistol and shoot off red flares at them, they would clear off but not before one last go.

     The Experimental Hangar which was located a short distance from the Main flight shed was where some of the Lease Lend aircraft from the United States were being evaluated to fit in with the specification requirements of the Royal Air Force. This was quite a task and a very important one, because the work done there would finally be passed back to the manufacturers to be incorporated into their assembly lines. At one time there was a Baltimore, Vengeance, Mitchell, and a Marauder being dealt with. My Brother- in - Law, Mr. Frank Mitchell,was very much involved in co-ordinating all this work, assisted by Mr. Owen Hill.After the war they were to become Partners in founding "Twyford Moors Aircraft Co. Ltd," a large factory located on Chestnut Ave. Eastleigh, Hants, where they became even more involved with aircraft and Helicopters.Later they both obtained their Private Pilots License and went through several types of aircraft. Owen especially, got hooked on flying and is very well known in aviation circles. He was to become co-owner of the "Hampshire Aero Club" at Eastleigh Airport and great friends with John Isaacs, the Author, and designer of the scaled down Spitfire and Fury, and also with the "Great Restorer," Mr. Vivian Bellemy, a true Aviation Personality, so well known to all in the aviation world. Frank Mitchell meanwhile was heavily involved with negotiating with "Enstrom Helicoptors" to get the Agency for the U.K. and other areas but it fell through, although they did have an Enstrom at the works at Eastleigh, which was used often. Also he was overseeing a large test rig they were developing for the testing of helicoptor blades, for the Boeing Aircraft Co. and they were successful. Going back a little, something unusual happened, I was working on some of the Hudsons that were coming through, in the Main Flight Shed, but more about these later, because a strange thing occured I was to be transfered to the Experimental Hangar, I suspected it had something to do with my Brother-in Law, Frank Mitchell. He was working on, supervising, and developing, a very secret project, and he had to leave his other important work, the secret project had to take priority.

     In the hanger we had a very high enclosure in one corner, with very limited access. Only authorised people were allowed entry and they were very few, most were not from our company. Only three of us worked on the device. It was to develop a system that would enable a torpedo to glide into the water after being released from an aircraft because often, when dropped, the torpedo would '"crash " as it were, or go off course due to being dropped from too high or at the wrong angle and as most aircraft could only carry one torpedo there was no second chance and the aircraft would have to abandon the attack. The device consisted of a set of wings of about a 5 foot wingspan with a square-ish fin and rudder at each side, all constucted of Aluminum. Inside the wing was a gyro to control stability. Also, tucked away was a weight attached to a reel of cable, the length of which, could be adjusted. It would eventually work like this.A torpedo would be fitted with the wings, loaded on the plane and off it would go to the target. When in position, at a certain height, the torpedo would be released and the weight would be deployed to the length of the cable, and the gyro, at the same time, would be activated.

     At this stage it would be heading in the general direction of the target, gliding towards it with stability being maintained by the gyro and trailing the weight on the end of the predetermined length of cable. As soon as the weight hit the water, the inertia shock would travel up the cable and activate a release mechanism, the whole unit would drop into the sea,and the torpedo was ensured of a clean entry at the correct angle and height, on course to the target. It sounds easy but there were many trials and tribulations before sucess. The dropping trials were carried out from Lee on Solent by the Fleet Air Arm,although I do recall seeing the Armstrong Whitworth Albemarle being used once.The three of us would be in attendance along with the people involved in its conception The title of the project was "The T.O.R.A. Development".

     By the way you, the readers, are probably the only persons in America that now know of the T.O.R.A. Development. I bet no one you talk to will know. They may have description but no real Gen on it, it was very secret at the time. Was first really used during the attack against the Italian navy at Taranto by the Fleet Air Arm with good results.

     Detachment to R.A.F.Silloth. Lockheed Hudson. O.T.U.(Operational Training Unit.) I was now at about late summer 1941. and the Tora Development all but completed. At this time Hudsons appeared to be having certain problems and having worked on them before I was part of a group that was to be detached to Silloth to try and solve the problems. Cunliffe Owen's dispatched us by rail to Carlisle and thence to Silloth. I had my first taste of long distance railway travel during wartime, I was not impressed.We arrived and were taken a few miles further down the coast from Silloth to a lovely stone Hotel, standing alone , right on the beach at the small village of Allonby.This was to be home for nearly one year, as it turned out.The meals were very good and the whole place was comfortable, also the Cunliffe group were the only guests for the whole year!

     Our leader Quickly ascertained the problems and we all got down to fix them. The problems. The Engines were difficult to start. Petrol tanks leaking near the top fastening of the undercarriage oleo leg.  Astrograph equipment ( an aid to Navigation) to be positioned in the rear cabin. Aircraft that ditched were sinking almost immediately.

No. 1. The engine starting problem .

     The Silloth airfield is situated right on the edge of the Solway Firth and very strong and cold air sweeps across it from the sea, also it can develop quite heavy damp mist's.

     It was concluded that the engine oil around the pistons was thickening up around them, and also in the oil tanks, amongst other things.The aircraft were hardly ever kept in the hanger, they were out in the open and engine covers were seldom put over them.The final solution was to fit an oil dilution kit to each engine, Which, simply put, thins out the oil prior to starting, giving it a better chance to start. Also they were advised to make use of the covers by the powers that be.

No. 2. Petrol tanks leaking.

     This was the most difficult job of them all.Silloth being a training unit , the aircraft had to suffer quite heavy and hard landings quite often.In present times this would most definitely call for an inspection but in wartime this was not always reported to the ground crew who were a great bunch of fellows,God bless them, working under the most adverse conditions. Anyhow, the top of the main undercarriage leg is fastened to a large strong bracket strongly affixed to the side of the petrol tank which was integral,ie built into the framework of the wing and could not be removed.In time the large rivets holding the brackets were weakened slightly and they were not tight enough to prevent a very slight trickle of high octane fuel from leaking.This could be fatal being so near the hot engines, as you can well imagine. To cure this problem, the tanks were emptied and defumed and the acess panels on the top of the wing removed so as to allow acess to the interior wall where the problem was located. After much thought, some of the rivets were replaced with bolts, the remaining rivets were taken out and replaced with a different type. All the Hudsons received the same treatment and in adition orders went out to all pilots to report heavy landings so the undercarriage could be inspected. It apparently worked out fine.

No. 3. Astrograph in rear cabin.

     This was simple. A small table was fixed just to the rear of the bulkhead dividing the crew compartment, on the port side, complete with a moveable lamp and a fixed seat, also a intercom socket was provided for communication.

No. 4. Ditched aircraft sinking very quickly.

     Inspection of aircraft recovered from ditching showed that the bomb doors were crushed inwards and the Navigators front glass panel situated in the floor, a short distance from the nose, would be pushed inwards. Silloth had a reputation for having so many ditchings that the locals re- named the Solway Firth to "Hudsons Bay." Two of the runways pointed toward the open sea from which the wind seemed to always be coming from, so the 2 runways were the most often used and if the aircraft had a problem whilst just becoming airborne, someone could look forward to getting their feet wet.In addition many planes were lost while carrying out low level bombing on a target anchored about half a mile from shore.This problem was fixed to a certain extent. The front glass was strongly reinforced with an inner frame and 2 cross bars.

     In between the 2 bomb bay bulkheads a strong aluminum girder was fitted so that the bomb doors would close upon it for their entire length.Nothing of course could prevent a quick sinking if hitting the water with great force.We did have favourable reports later, informing us that the modifications had worked out very well, which pleased us. Looking through this it may appear that it all was completed quickly, in fact it took many months to finish everything .

     I was about half way through 1942 by now and I decided to have another try to volunteer for R.A.F. Aircrew. I had tried twice before at my hometown of Southampton, but they would not accept me because I was in a reserved occupation.I went into Carlisle to the recruiting office and I was accepted.The manager of our group knew of my intentions and did all he could to help me. He received a call from the recruitng office asking about my occupation( I had told them that I was not in a reserved occupation.) The manager replied by saying that as far as he was concerned I was not. It was then that I knew I would make it, and I did. In the meantime I was transfered back to Cunliffe Owen's at Southampton. In due course, I went through all the pre- entrance proceedures and after fond farewells from all my fellow workers and friends, I departed for London and the Air Crew Reception Center. From there I went through the normal sequence of Aircrew training, as detailed below.

I.T.W.Bridgenorth. ( Initial Training Wing)

Marching, drilling, P.T., R.A.F. regulations, Dinghy drill, etc, etc.

   After leaving the Air Crew Reception Center in London, the whole gang of us were shipped off, complete with all our wordly goods packed into one Kitbag, by rail to Bridgenorth in Shropshire. After we arrived at the station we were told to shoulder our Kitbags because we were going to march all the way to the camp, it was about 2 miles and most of it was uphill. There were about 100 plus in total, marching 3 abreast. By the time we reached the camp we were all bushed, including the Drill Instructors, the Flight Sergeant who was in command and leading, yelling out such things as, "You miserable lot, smarten up there, and keep in step" and other unprintable remarks. We finished up on the drill square and were split into 3 class's and given our Hut number's. Just outside was a smaller hut that was the wash house for shaving and showering, cold water only laid on, Ugh!! Each hut had to be kept immaculate.

   There was a seperate room at one end for the Corporal drill instructor he would make a roster for 3 people each morning to stay behind to clean the quarters, we all had our turns.

   He would be our mentor right up until the time we left there.

   The next day we were given a lecture on what we could and could not do. The curfew was to be back in the evening by10.pm, otherwise we would find ourselves marching around the large drill square in full gear complete with Rifle.

   Drilling and handling a rifle occupied much of the first weeks, in between we would learn about the rules and the system of RAF regulations, Physical training, and Dinghy training in the swimming pool.

   The Dinghy training consisted of jumping off the top step of the pool tower with a Mae West (Flotation vest) and swimming to a Dinghy that was upside down, you had to turn it over and get aboard! no easy task. The whole time at ITW was a bit harsh but when we left we were much fitter than before. Not one person said they were sorry to leave Bridgenorth. At that time, the drill instructors almost became Humans!!!

No. 4, Radio School. R.A.F.Station Madley. Aircraft = Percival Proctor,De Haviland Dominie.

   We finally departed from Bridgenorth the same way as we had arrived, marching with full gear to the Railway Station to await the train to take us to RAF Madely, this time it was "downhill" and it sure made a difference. Upon reaching the station the WVS (Womans Volunteer Service) came around with trays of Beetroot sandwhiches!!! and mugs of tea. Food rationing was at its height and most of us had never had such a filling of beets before! The WVS were very kind and apologised about having to use the unusual filling, but, an alternative could be offered, Raw sliced Onion! The Train arrived and we were shoved into the coach's jammed up like sardines in a can.

   We finally arrived at Hereford, the nearest point to Madely, 8 miles away to the West. thank goodness there were large trucks to transport us. People were taking note of the distance to the airfield from Hereford just in case at sometime or another they may be stranded in Hereford. After arrival we were told to get out and assemble in our class numbers, my group was class No.31. The staff here were much more organised compared to Bridgenorth. Our gear would be dropped off at our designated Hut. The Flight Sgt. in command informed us that a meal is ready and waiting for us, a cheer went up and he quickly told us 'none of that', The cookhouse was nearby and after about 300 yards we were there for our meal, which was a little better than the meals at Bridgenorth.

   After the meal we were lined up in three's and marched to the hut for class 31. Once inside we saw that a roster for clean up duty was already in place There was not much difference in our hut from our previous one, except for the fact that we had "Hot Water" in our wash house. Some were not so lucky in the far flung locations, they were too far out from the source. Next day we were given the usual Pep talk, similiar to the previous one at ITW. Madley was not quite like a pre war built up airfield, 90 per cent of the buildings were temporary. When we started to go to our lessons,starting from the basics of radio technology, our corporal would get us lined up for marching and then deliver us to a class room, being that the whole site was far flung we did a lot of walking from one class to another. After each lesson, the corporal that delivered the next class would take us to our next one and so on. Suffice to say, it would take far too long to describe everything that happened during the time at Madley which was about one year, but I think that you get a good idea, it all involved learning and study. All students had to have turns at guard duty down at the airfield under the command of the Sergeant of the guard. The last 2 months were looked forward to because that is when we started to put into practice what we had learned, it was the thrill of getting towards the first flights. Previously we had had a feeling of what it would be like in the air. Before getting to the actual flying we had dummy runs in mock up's of an aircrafts Radio compartment (complete with engine noise pumped in) we would have to imagine we were airborne and making contact with ground stations etc. the 'ground stations' were actually just a few yards away from you in another room.

   At last, the moment came to get airborne, we would be fitted out with a parachute and get aboard a Dominie Aircraft, a twin engined Bi-plane that accomodated the Pilot and Radio instructor plus 5 pupils. Each pupil would have a typed instruction sheet and would try and follow it using the radio to contact real ground stations at Madley. After a few more flights like this, we would then go on to Percival Proctor aircraft, single engined and a monoplane, just the pilot and pupil on board. Nearly all the pilots had been posted there as a temporary rest from fighter action, actualy they all said they couldn't wait to get back to their squadrons. Finally came the day when you graduated and would receive your Flying Brevet and also promoted to Sergeant, this would be followed by a march past. The next day we would go on 7 days leave and would know our next posting, in my case along with about 15 others, it was to be No9. (O) Advanced Flying Unit in Wales, RAF Station LLandwrog and right on the Sea shore, not far from Caernarfon and all in the shadow of the Snowdon Mountains.

No. 9 (O) A.F.U. R.A.F.LLandwrog (Observer Advanced Flying Unit) Aircraft = Avro Ansons.

(SCHLAN DEW ROGG, as pronounced in Welsh. If 'you' try it, make sure a little spit sprays out during SCHLAN.)

   After leaving Hereford by train, we made our way through beautiful country winding our way through valleys and hilly area's. One station that we stopped at for a few minutes has the longest word in the Welsh language. Here it is!! This is "Not a Joke"

LLANFAIRPWLLGWYNGYLLGOGERYCHWRYNDROBWLLLLANTYSILIOGOGOGOCH.

   Best of luck to everyone trying to pronounce that!

   We eventually arrived at Caernarvon, the City that has a wonderful Castle on the waterfront and is overlooked by Mount Snowdon and its slopes. Our first stop was at the Sergeants Mess for a meal that was much improved compared to the slops we had endured previously. Our accommodation was the usual hut type, we had hot water too. The best thing about it was that we were located just across the road from the Beach, no built up area's near us at all. Transport collected us to go to the main airfield site and also returned us to our living quarters. Another good thing was that a small local bus line stopped right at our site, we could be in Caernarvon in just a few minutes, we all thought that we had died and gone to heaven!

   Our group went through the normal introduction to the course and included information on the local area, and to kick off the start of our flying training we had to do a week of ground school covering the aircraft, which were ancient Avro Ansons.The Ansons were equipped with the complete radio layout plus a position for a Navigator who also would be under training like myself. In these Anson's the undercarriage had to be manually retracted by winding a wheel on the starboard side of the fuselage opposite the Pilot. As far as I remember it took about 240 turns to lock in!! With myself and the Nav being students, we both had to take our 'turns', later versions had mechanical retraction. On all the flights the Nav and I would work together on the cross country exercises, he maintaining a log of the route of the aircraft, course, height, turning points  and times etc. Now and again we land at different airfields to drop someone off or to pick. One airfield I remember vividly.One of the groundstaff's father had passed away suddenly, the family lived in Northern Ireland close to the airfield near Ballykelly which was home to some Beaufighter Squadrons. It was arranged that during one of our cross country trips to call in to Ballykelly to drop off the Son of the deceased. We flew across the Irish Sea and found the airfield, it was perched on the top of vertical cliffs about 200/250 feet up from sea level and had just one runway pointing towards the cliff top. If an aircraft had to abandon a take off or lose an engine halfway down the runway it would be in great danger of going over the edge of the high cliffs!! When we took off to return to base we experienced a terrific down draft and lost a fair amount of height before climbing up, all of us were very pleased we were not based at Ballykelly.

   Back to our normal routine of cross country trips. Due to the location of our airfield being so close to the mountains, one had to be very cautious in cloudy or misty weather in that area. If on returning to base in such weather I would have to get bearings from HF/DF stations and pass them on to the Navigator so he could direct the pilot towards the sea so that we could let down in safety. In the event of not getting a glimpse of the sea we would then have to choose to land at one of our diversion airfields, given to us at pre flight briefing.

   The local Welsh population were great people and we enjoyed their company. In Wales the Pubs never opened on Sundays, but in the Sergeants Mess that did not apply. Any member of the mess could invite 2 people each, so as you can imagine, we were pretty much full up on those evenings. The Welsh people enjoyed a joke and especially a good singing session which they did so beautifly, ah! those were the days. After 16 weeks we were ready to be sent to an OTU (Operational Traing Unit), in my case it was to be No.26 OTU at RAF Station. Wing, explained in the next section.

***

Peter Weston's Biography Continues Here (Click Here).....

----- Peter A. Weston

       paweston@trytel.com

Directory to Biography of Peter Weston

     Pre-War, Supermarine Apprentice

     Squadron 186, WWII & Post War

     Squadron 45, Malayan Emergency

     Squadron 209, Korean War

     Cold War

LINKS

45 Squadron RAF, Unit History, WWI, Iraq, Palestine, WWII, Malaya

AVRO Lancaster, Photo

AVRO Lancaster KM-B, Photo of Existing Battle of Britain Flight Aircraft

Bristol Beaufighter Collection, By Peter A. Weston, 45 Squadron, Tengah Malaya, RAF

Bristol Brigand Collection,  by Peter A. Weston, No. 45 Sqdn, RAF, Malaya Campaign, 1949

DeHavilland Mosquito Collection, By Peter A. Weston, RAF

Formation of Short Sunderland Mk. 5s, By Peter A. Weston, No. 209 Sqdn, FEAF, RAF, Korean War

Handley Page Halifax, Photo

Handley Page Hermes, Skyways, Photo

Lockheed Hudson, 48 Squadron, Photo

Malayan Emergency  A Collection of resources regarding the Conflict between England, Malaya and Communist Malayan Rebels from 1948 through 1960 and beyond.

Supermarine Scapa, Photo

Supermarine Sea Otter, Photo

Sunderland Flying Boat at RAF Museum, Photo

Sunderland Flying Boat,  by Peter A. Weston, No. 209 Sqdn, FEAF, RAF, Korean War

Supermarine Spitfire, Photo

Supermarine Spitfires, Photo

Supermarine Stranraer, Photo

Supermarine Walrus, Photo

UN Liaison Group, Photo

Vickers Wellington, Photo

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