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Authors: Gill Griffin

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B Flight No. 2 Squadron, 3 ITW, September 1940. Signatures on the reverse of the photograph were annotated by Len Thorne during the 1940s as information came to him. There are notations for those who failed the course, those killed in training accidents and some missing or killed in action. Red ovals, ‘halos’, were sometimes used to indicate deaths.

Early in December I was posted to No. 9 SFTS, Hullavington, for advanced training, first on the Miles Master Mk 1, then to Hawker Hurricanes for all solo flying. I successfully completed the flying course, attended the passing out parade in April 1941 and received the coveted Silver Wings on April 13th, the date of my 21st birthday. I was then promoted to the rank of sergeant. My next posting was to No. 57 OTU, Hawarden, near Chester, for intensive training in the art of a fighter pilot, most of the instructors being those men who had survived the Battle of Britain. I experienced my first solo in a Spitfire Mk 1, flying from Speke airfield, now Liverpool airport.

I was posted to Catterick in late May, to become a member of 41 Squadron, flying the more advanced Spitfire Mk 2 and, after a period of flying patrols over the northeast coast, I moved to Tangmere to take part in operations over enemy-held France. Here I saw my first enemy aircraft and experienced my first anti-aircraft fire.

After a period with ‘41’, I was posted to No. 602, City of Glasgow, Royal Auxiliary Airforce Squadron, to complete a full tour of operations lasting until May 1942. I flew under the command of many famous fighter leaders, among them Al Deere, Paddy Finucane, Francis Victor Beamish, Findlay Boyd and several others. In January 1942 I was promoted to Flight Sergeant and became senior NCO pilot in ‘A’ Flight, authorised to act, on occasions, as a flight leader. In the course of this service I was credited with five victories, three confirmed destroyed, two others probably destroyed and three damaged. In 602 we had Spitfire MkVb’s armed with 20mm cannons.

In May 1942 I was posted, on rest, to the AFDU, the Air Fighting Development Unit, which was then at Duxford and after six months I was offered the chance to become an experimental test pilot and remain at AFDU as one of the permanent staff. The following year, in August, I was appointed Flight Commander of the unit. My most notable task at this time was to fly captured enemy aircraft, including the much-feared Focke Wulf FW 190. Apart from normal flights and comparative tests I took the latter machine all over the country giving demonstrations and mock combat to our own pilots. In the spring of 1945 I was briefly acting OC flying during the absence of S/Ldr. T.S. Wade. Also at that time I had a partial rest from flying and performed the duties of range instructing officer at the Selsey bombing and firing ranges.

At
the end of the war, in August 1945, I was offered a posting to the Air Ministry in London and for the next three years I was attached to the Ministry of Supply as a liaison officer with the aircraft manufacturing companies. The end of my service career came in September 1948 when I returned to civilian life.

Ex RAFVR Flight Lieutenant No. 121518 (NCO No. 1164397) H.L. (Len.) Thorne.

One-time Flt. Commander of the Air Fighting Development Unit (AFDU) later, as part of CFE, the Air Fighting Development Squadron (AFDS).

1
TRAINING

No. 7 E.F.T.S. (Elementary Flying Training School), Desford

No. 9 S.F.T.S. (Service Flying Training School), Hullavington

No. 57 O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit), Hawarden

YEAR
1940
AIRCRAFT
Pilot or 1st Pilot
2nd Pilot, Pupil or Pass.
DUTY (Including Results and Remarks)
Flying Time
Passenger
MONTH
DATE
Type
No.
Dual
Solo
September
30th
DH 82
GADXT
P/O Hayne
Self
1. Air Experience
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1a. Familiarity with cockpit layout
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2. Effect of controls
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4. Straight and level flight
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
5. Gliding
1-25
 
 

Towards the end of September 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain, I was posted to No. 7 E.F.T.S. (Elementary Flying Training School), Desford, near Leicester, to be taught to fly De Havilland Tiger Moth biplanes.

Explanation of exercises

The sequence of flying lessons is in accordance with the following numbers:

1.
Air experience
1a.
Familiarity with cockpit layout
2.
Effect of controls
3.
Taxiing
4.
Straight and level flight
5.
Gliding
6.
Medium turns
7.
Taking off into wind
8.
Powered approach
9.
Gliding approach and landing
10.
Spinning left and right
12.
Side slipping
13.
Precautionary landing
15.
Steep turns
16.
Climbing turns
17.
Forced landing
18.
Instrumentment flying
20. & 20a.
Night flying
22.
Aerobatics

I believe that 11, 14, 18 and 21 are lessons that apply to multi-engined aircraft training.

YEAR
1940
AIRCRAFT
Pilot or 1st Pilot
2nd Pilot, Pupil or Pass.
DUTY (Including Results and Remarks)
Flying Time
Passenger
MONTH
DATE
Type
No.
Dual
Solo
October
1st
DH82
N6475
P/O Hayne
Self
2,4,5,3 and 6
1–40
 
 
 
2nd
DH82
N6475
P/O Hayne
Self
3,4,5 and 6
1–15
 
 
 
3rd
DH82
N6475
P/O Hayne
Self
4,5 and 6
−30
 
 
 
7th
DH82
N6475
P/O Hayne
Self
4,5,6,7 and 8
1–55
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Grand total to date
6–45
 
 
 
 
 
N6475
P/O Hayne
Self
4,5,6 and 7
0–45
 
 
 
 
 
N6475
P/O Hayne
Self
6,7,9 and 10
1–10
 
 
 
 
 
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
0–20
 
 
 
15th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
1–10
 
 
 
16th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
40
 
 
 
18th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
25
 
 
 
25th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
−55
 
 
 
26th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
−40
 
 
 
28th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
−45
 
 
 
29th
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6,7 and 9
−20
 
 
 
 
DH 82
T5690
Sgt Males
Self
Solo test exercises:-
2 Effect of controls
3 Taxying
4 Straight and level flight
5 Gliding, climbing and stalling
6 Medium turns
7 Taxying into wind
8 Powered approach and landing
9 Gliding approach and landing
Spins: 1 right
1 left     -40
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
DH 82
T5690
Self
——
FIRST SOLO

−10
 
 
 
DH 82
R5039
F/Lt Hall
Self
6, 7 and 9
−30
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R5039
Self
——
6, 7 and 9
 
1–05
 
 
31st
DH 82
G ADXT
F/Lt Hall
Self
6, 7, 8, 9 and 12
1–05
 
 
 
 
DH 82
G ADXT
Self
 
6, 7, 8, 9 and 12
 
1–25
 
 
 
DH 82
N-1077
Self
 
6, 7, 8, 9 and 12
 
−45
 

7 October
: In my logbook at this point is a pencilled note, as follows:-

Times at Desford

WEEK ENDING 4/10/40. 4 hours 50 minutes. A red stamp follows that says:

Certified correct, dated 5 Oct 1940 and signed by my instructor F/Lt Wardell, No. 7 EFTS. Desford.

29 October
: Although we started out full of confidence, it still came as a surprise when we achieved our first solo flight. On this day, after weeks of training, I made the first flight of the day with F/Lt Hall, my usual instructor. There was nothing untoward about it so it came as a surprise when, for my next flight, I was taken up by Sgt Males who, although an NCO, was a very experienced instructor and he put me through the complete list of exercises I had learned so far. After landing, we taxied in to the dispersal point and he climbed out, leaving the engine running. To my amazement he was holding the joystick (control column) from the second cockpit. He shook it towards me and shouted, ‘She’s all yours; do one circuit and landing then come in and switch off.’ There is a song that originated in the Navy that starts:

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