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
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
"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
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,
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
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
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
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
Handley Page Hampden'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
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
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
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"
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.
Weston's Biography Continues Here (Click Here).....
----- Peter A. Weston
Directory to Biography of Peter
186, WWII & Post War
45, Malayan Emergency
209, Korean War
RAF, Unit History, WWI, Iraq, Palestine, WWII,
KM-B, Photo of Existing Battle of Britain Flight Aircraft
Beaufighter Collection, By Peter A. Weston, 45 Squadron, Tengah Malaya,
Brigand Collection, by Peter A. Weston, No. 45
Sqdn, RAF, Malaya Campaign, 1949
Mosquito Collection, By Peter A. Weston, RAF
of Short Sunderland Mk. 5s, By Peter A. Weston, No. 209 Sqdn, FEAF, RAF,
Page Hermes, Skyways, Photo
Hudson, 48 Squadron, Photo
Emergency A Collection of resources regarding
the Conflict between England, Malaya and Communist Malayan Rebels from 1948
through 1960 and beyond.
Sea Otter, Photo
Flying Boat at RAF Museum, Photo
Flying Boat, by Peter A. Weston, No. 209 Sqdn, FEAF, RAF, Korean
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