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Authors: Gill Griffin

A Very Unusual Air War (6 page)

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16 January
: Night flying was one of the course highlights. At approximately 11 p.m. (23.00 hours) on a moonless night, we were taken in the three-ton Bedford pick-up trucks to Babdown Farm (near to where Prince Charles now lives at Highgrove). There were no electric landing lights, just a line of paraffin (kerosene) burning ‘gooseneck’ flares (ordinary steel watering cans with a length of rope stuffed down the spouts). See more about this later on April 7/8th.

Summary for:- January 1941
1. Master
Unit:- No.9 SFTS Hullavington
N/F 1.00
Date:- 1/2/41
Dual 3.00
Signature: -
G. Paul
F/Lt O/C ‘A’ Flight
Solo 4.50

In an earlier note I remarked that the winter weather was very severe, with much snow. We often had to clear it off the aircraft and muck in with the ground staff to clear the take-off paths (Hullavington had no runways at that time). When we were able to continue the training flights, it was a real pleasure to fly over snow-covered countryside, especially as Hullavington was towards the southern end of the Cotswold Hills. One notable landmark was the Fosse Way, the Roman road running north to south across the area.

For a period of three weeks there was almost no flying training, we concentrated on ground training and lectures. We had been introduced to the Link trainer during October while at Desford and during this period of bad weather the ‘Link’ kept us in touch with flying. Although I was assessed as average on it, I never really took to the Link but it certainly served a very useful purpose. It is still used today as a simulator for modern aircraft but is greatly improved and much more realistic than those early machines.

One dark and dismal morning we received a sharp reminder that there was a war on. A Heinkel 111 bomber came from the west out of low cloud; he dropped a stick of bombs in a line parallel with the hangars, at the same time spraying the area with machine-gun fire. When the air-raid warning siren sounded, all of us brave young budding fighter pilots made a rush for the nearest air shelter. A number of Tiger Moths of the EFTS on the far side of the airfield were destroyed and two of our Masters were damaged. I cannot remember if there were any casualties but we cadets escaped with a severe fright. The Luftwaffe aircraft was brought down by ground fire and crashed near Bath between the villages of Box and Corsham.

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
February
3rd
Miles Master
T8385
Sgt Nutter
Self
6, 7, 8, 13 and 19 (IF.)
−50
 
 
 
6th
Miles Master
T8387
Self
 
7, 8, 15, 16 and 17
 
−45
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8387
Self
 
7 and 8
 
−10
 
 
12th
Miles Master
T8483
P/O Roberts
Self
Formation positions 1, 2 and 3
1–30
 
 
 
14th
Miles Master
T8383
Sgt Nutter
Self
19, Instrument flying
1–00
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8483
Self
 
13 and 17
 
1–05
 
15th
Miles Master
T8387
Self
 
8, 13, 15, 16 and 17
 
1–05
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8387
P/O Roberts
Self
23, Navigation
1–20
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Grand total to date: 72 hours 15 minutes
 
 
 

6 February
: The flight on February 6th was cut short by bad weather. Note that F/Sgt Roberts was commissioned at the end of January.

Summary for:- February
1. Master 4–40 dual
Unit:- No.9 SFTS Hullavington
3.05 solo
Date:- 28/2/41
 
Signature:-
B.B. Hallowes
pp O/C ‘A’ Flight
 
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
March
6th
Miles Master
T86468
P/O Roberts
Self
7 and 8
−30
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8468
Self
 
7 and 8
 
−50
 
 
9th
Miles Master
T8385
P/O Roberts
Self
19, Instrument flying
−50
 
 
 
13th
Miles Master
T8385
Self
 
Navigation test
 
1–15
 
 
 
Hurricane
3116
Self
 
7 and 8 FIRST SOLO
 
−30
 
 
14th
Miles Master
T8401
Self
LAC Cadet John Timmis
19, Instrument flying “under the hood”
 
−45
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8401
LAC Timmis
Self
19, Safety pilot
−45
 
 
 
15th
Hurricane
3807
Self
 
7, 8, 13, 15 and 16
 
1–00
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8390
P/O Roberts
Self
22 and 19
1–10
 
 
 
16th
Miles Master
T8390
P/O Roberts
Self
Formations in positions 1, 2 and 3
−45
 
 
 
18th
Miles Master
T8400
F/Sgt Rowney
Self
19, Instrument flying
−25
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8385
F/Lt Paul
Self
Formation
−45
 
 
 
19th
Hurricane
3320
Self
 
15 and 16
 
−45
 
 
Miles Master
T8483
P/O Roberts
Self
22, Aerobatics and 19
1–10
 
 
 
20th
Miles Master
T8375
P/O Roberts
Self
Instrument fly-ing Cross country (No. 2)
−55
 
 
 
21st
Miles Master
T8404
LAC Stevens
Self
10, Safety pilot
 
1–00
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8404
Self
LAC Stevens
10, Instrument flying
1–00
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8404
LAC Drinkwater
Self
Safety pilot
 
−50
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8404
Self
LAC Drinkwater
Instrument flying
−45
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8404
Self
 
Cross country
1–30
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8404
Self
LAC Drinkwater
19, Instrument flying
−30
 
 
 
22nd
Miles Master
T8401
Self
 
13, Precautionary landing
 
−55
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8404
Self
 
Formation
 
−45
 
 
23rd
Miles Master
T8401
P/O Russell
Self
6, 7 and 8
−45
 
 
 
 
Hurricane
3211
Self
 
Formation
 
−55
 
 
25th
Hurricane
3211
Self
 
Formation
 
−45
 
 
26th
Miles Master
T8391
P/O Rowley
Self
Formation flying
 
−40
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8393
P/O Rowley
Self
Formation flying
 
−4
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8387
P/O Harding
Self
Formation flying
 
−30
 
 
 
Hurricane
3211
Self
 
Formation flying as leader
 
−45
 
 
 
Hurricane
1742
Self
 
Formation flying
 
−45
 
 
27th
Hurricane
2548
Self
 
Cross country No. 2
 
1–30
 
 
30th
Miles Master
T8482
Self
 
Cross country No. 3
 
1–50
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8375
P/O Roberts
Self
20a, Night flying, 5, Landings
−50
 
 
 
 
Miles Master
T8375
Self
 
20a, Night flying, 5, Landings
 
−30
 
 
31st
Hurricane
3807
Self
 
Use of radio, air to ground
 
−35
 

13
March
: Up to this time in the RAF, advanced training after going solo on the Miles Master had been carried out on the obsolete Hawker Hart biplane. Due to the urgent need for newly trained fighter pilots as replacements for those lost the previous year and to man the many newly formed squadrons, our No.28 course was the subject of a drastic (or dramatic) experiment. After only a few hours, in my case 4 hours 5 minutes, I soloed in the Master. After a further 10 hours of solo training I, like the other cadets, transferred straight on to a front line fighter, the renowned Hawker Hurricane, for the remainder of my solo training.

This drastic step resulted in a crop of minor accidents and some more serious ones; three resulted in fatalities. One of these was an army captain who had transferred to the RAF and another was one of the group of Indian Air Force officers who were members of the course.

In an attempt to tighten up, and bring about an improvement, the CFI instituted a ‘black list’ displayed in the operations tent. It was my bad luck to be the first to qualify for my name to head the list after holding off a little too high when landing. The Hurricane stalled when still a few feet from the ground, dropped the starboard wing, which brushed the ground, and was slightly damaged. Other names followed but the idea backfired, causing a drop in morale and a loss of confidence. The list was dropped but it had in fact brought about an improvement.

14 March
: For instrument flying practice the pupil in the rear cockpit was ‘under the hood’, a cowl which pulled forward totally enclosing the cockpit. Initially one of the instructors occupied the front cockpit but as the course advanced another cadet would act as safety pilot (see March 21st). On one of these flights I was ‘under the hood’ flying blind completely on instruments. My safety pilot must have taken a nap as, when my time was up, I emerged into daylight and to my horror found we were in the middle of the Wolverhampton balloon barrage. By the grace of God we escaped unscathed but my comments to the other cadet are unprintable.

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