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Authors: Gill Griffin

A Very Unusual Air War (4 page)

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‘They say in the air force a landing’s OK

If the pilot gets out and can still walk away.’

I could and I did – a wonderful feeling!

On this day I had one more short flight with F/Lt Hall. He then sent me off again; this time he had switched off and stopped the engine, so I had to go right through the starting procedure before taking off for a solo flight of 1 hour and 5 minutes. A wonderful day, I felt like one of the gods.

Depending on possible previous experience (including manual dexterity developed by an activity such as horse riding), most cadets would go solo in 12 to 14 hours, so my 14 hours 35 minutes was fairly average. 16 hours was crunch time; those who had not made it by then were subjected to a CFI (Chief Flying Instructor) Test, and his verdict was final. If he decided that a cadet was not going to make the grade as a pilot, the unlucky chap would be offered a transfer to other aircrew duties, i.e. navigator, observer, air gunner, radio operator and later the new category of Flight Engineer. Refusal to accept usually resulted in a transfer to ground duties. As far as I remember, roughly 10 per cent failed to clear this obstacle.

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
November
1st
DH 82
G ADXT
F/Lt Hall
Self
12, 15 Steep turns and 16 Climbing turns
−55
 
 
 
 
DH 82
G ADXT
Self
 
12, 15 and 16
 
1–00
 
 
 
DH 82
G ADXT
Self
 
12, 15 and 16
 
−45
 
 
 
DH 82
G ADXT
Self
 
15 and 16
 
−20
 
 
2nd
DH 82
G ADXT
F/Lt Hall
Self
6, 7, 8 and 9
−10
 
 
 
 
DH 82
G ADXT
Self
 
6, 7 and 8
 
−50
 
 
 
DH 82
G ADXT
Self
 
15 and 16
 
−25
 
 
3rd
DH 82
G ADXT
F/Lt Hall
Self
19 Instrument Flying
−45
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
15 and 16
 
−50
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
GRAND TOTAL TO DATE 25 HOURS AND 35 MINUTES Signed By F/Lt W.E. Hall
 
 
 
 
5th
DH 82
N9272
F/Lt Hall
Self
12, 13, 17 Forced landing
−25
 
 
 
 
DH 82
N4475
Self
 
15 and 16
 
−50
 
 
 
DH 82
G AECT
Self
 
15 and 16
 
−50
 
 
7th
DH 82
G ADXT
F/Lt Hall
Self
12 Spins 1 left 1 right
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
17, 18 (action in the event of fire)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
18A Abandoning aircraft
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
19 Instrument flying
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
21 Aerobatics
 
−40
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
10, 15, 16, 17 and 22
 
−55
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
10, 15, 16, 17 and 22
 
−55
 
 
8th
DH 82
R5109
F/Lt Hall
Self
Navigation
−50
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
15, 16, 17 and 22
 
1–20
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
15, 16 and 22
 
−45
 
 
13th
DH 82
R5109
F/Lt Hall
Self
13 Precautionary Landing
−10
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
10, 17 and 22
 
1–00
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
Cross Country Desford to Cosford
 
1–00
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
Cross Country Return to Desford
 
−35
 
 
 
DH 82
R5109
Self
 
13, 15 and 22
 
1–00
 
 
14th
DH 82
R5109
F/Lt Hall
Self
19 Instrument Flying
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Turning on to and maintaining courses
1–05
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spins:- 1 left
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1 right
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
14 low flying
 
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R4946
F/Lt Hall
Self
20 taking off and landing crosswind
−40
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R4946
Self
 
13, 17 and 22
 
1–05
 
 
 
DH 82
R5020
Self
 
13 and 22
 
−30
 
 
15th
DH 82
T7036
F/Lt Bamber
Self
19
−40
 
 
 
 
DH 82
T7036
F/Lt Bamber
Self
19
−40
 
 
 
 
DH 82
T7036
Self
 
10 and 22
 
−40
 
 
 
DH 82
G-ADOY
F/Lt Hall
Self
19 and 22
1–15
 
 
 
 
DH 82
G-ADOY
Self
 
10
 
55
 
 
 
DH 82
G-ADOY
Self
 
10, 13, 17 and 22
 
1.00
 
 
16th
DH 82
R4900
F/Lt Hall
 
10, 17 and 22
−40
 
 
 
 
DH 82
R4900
Self
 
 
 
−30
 
 
 
DH 82
R4900
Self
 
 
 
−50
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Instrument flying this month to date 4 Hours 10 minutes
 
 
 

3 November
: Through October and November there was no leave and the occasional day, or half day, off was spent locally. There were church parades on Sunday, otherwise just assemblies in the mornings, very relaxed, no ‘bull’. There were infrequent visits to Desford village for a drink at the local pub, but these were not encouraged. Most of us were fairly short of cash or engaged in revision of lectures. There were also one or two evening trips to sample the wartime delights of Leicester. We had, of course, been given further lectures in personal hygiene and the dangers of VD, the ET (early treatment) room and how to use that little tube of ointment with the long, pointed nozzle.

It was after one of these trips to Leicester that three of us missed the last bus back to base. We had no alternative but to start walking the 10 miles back to Desford. When about halfway, foot sore and weary, a kindly motorist offered us a lift. It was only after our arrival at our quarters that we realised to our horror,
that our benefactor was none other than the CFI (Chief Flying Instructor) F/Lt Wardell. He pretended not to notice that we were cadets and said nothing but ‘Good night’. We should, of course, have been back in camp by 2200 hours and it was then nearly midnight.

5 November
: By this time the RAF’s losses of fighter pilots in the battles over France, in the Dunquerque evacuation (operation Dynamo) and in the Battle of Britain, had become grave. Over 1,000 pilots were killed and many others were out of operation with wounds, burns, injuries from crashes and sheer fatigue. Most of these were pre-war trained, very experienced pilots. Replacements were a matter of great urgency and our flying training was stepped up to as many as six flights a day. (See 15 November.)

7 November
: The flying lesson on this day was an exciting step forward. After running through various emergency procedures, I was given my first introduction to the joys of aerobatics. Incredibly, after just that one lesson, I was let loose to perform aerobatics on almost every following solo flight. As I remember, these in the Tiger Moth were limited to slow rolls right and left and straightforward loops. The rolls would have been really slow, around a level axis. I do not remember performing barrel rolls until much later and then probably by accident. In the perfect slow roll, when inverted, you would leave the seat and your weight would be taken by the shoulder straps or harness. It was therefore most important to ensure that the latter were properly tightened.

8 November
: The next step forward was the navigation exercise on that day. Although only 50 minutes flying time it was the culmination of the many hours spent in the classroom. A destination having been selected, we had to complete a flight plan by laying out a line of flight on a map, allowing for wind speed and direction. We then calculated the compass direction, the IAS (indicated air speed) as shown on the ASI (air speed indicator), and the speed over the ground TAS (true air speed). Finally, we had to decide on the height at which we would fly and set the altimeter for air pressure at ground level.

13 November
: Just five days after my dual navigation lesson came the high spot so far: I was trusted to fly solo to Cosford, land and check in to the duty officer in the control tower to record my safe arrival. Then refuel, take off again and return to Desford. Although it was only a distance of 30/35 miles, it felt wonderful to know that I could really fly alone, out of sight of the airfield.

There must have been quite a high head wind to account for the longer time on the outward flight. It should be borne in mind that the Tiger Moth cruised at only 75/80mph so a head wind would have made that much difference. I was filled with confidence that I could go anywhere I chose. Of course I had to give way to the urge to show off my prowess to my nearest family member, so two days later
I set a course of 290 degrees on the compass and flew the 20 or so miles, just over 20 minutes, to Streethay near Lichfield. I quickly located my elder brother’s house and performed 10 minutes of aerobatics, slow rolls, a loop and a spin, and waved to my sister-in-law, Ivy, and my nephews, Terence and Robin. Leslie himself was, of course, in the RAF in India. Very pleased with myself, I returned to Desford. The trip was my secret but I always suspected that F/Lt Hall knew perfectly well where I had been.

16 November
: Poor weather at the end of November curtailed our activities and terminated our flying at Desford. During the remainder of our time there, a matter of about a week, we took our examination in the ground subjects, with particular emphasis on navigation and instrument flying. Those cadets who failed or had failed their flying were ‘washed out’ and transferred to other duties. The lucky ones were transferred to further training in other aircrew categories.

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