- Contributed by
- People in story:
- Frank Lund.
- Background to story:
- Royal Air Force
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 31 August 2005
Based at Shawbury the E N S was in the forefront of research into more accurate navigation methods as aircraft speeds increased. The methods of Dead Reckoning, so far, had been predominantly the same as for travel by sea, with land, coastal or stellar bearings taken with an appropriate carry
forward of bearing along your track to allow for distance travelled between readings. At 80 to 150 knots this was reasonably accurate but, as speeds in excess of 200 knots were now being achieved, more errors were apparent. The giro compass was now placed well away from aircraft components likely to affect the compass accuracy, usually in the tail. Our job at Shawbury was to experiment as new apparatus became available; Wellingtons were provided for these exercises although I had to remain firmly grounded doing laboratory work. The great day came when the station was issued with a Lancaster for research; it was named “Aries” and was the first plane to successfully navigate over the North Polar region and return safely to base bang on time.
Training was in meteorology, astro navigation and basic aircraft maintenance; at the end of the course I was awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Meteorological Society for research into climate relationships. This was, of course, long before the space age with satellite pictures available to show what is coming over the Atlantic. Many happy months were spent at Shawbury; Shrewsbury was a pleasant town to visit and train access to Sheffield was reasonable; first to Birmingham and then change for the Sheffield train. On some occasions it was possible to get a lift on a lorry; there were very few cars on the roads, as fuel was severely rationed, so long distance car travel was rarely possible. However I did miss the opportunities to fly and put my theories into practice. My last flight had been on May 13th 1943 when we had crashed and we were now well into 1944. At last an opportunity arose for a posting, within Flying Training Command; I went on leave back to Sheffield, to await posting details; the inevitable brown envelope duly arrived, complete with railway voucher and other documents for me to report to a small navigation training school at Clyffe Pypard, near Swindon. This turned out to be a private flying training school (part of the Marshall’s Flying School group) and was still maintained and managed by civilian staff and mechanics. The aircraft were the veteran twin seater Tiger Moths and the pupils were Fleet Air Arm cadets. The kitchen and mess staff were WAAFS so, all in all, it was a somewhat cosmopolitan set up! It was a lovely station with a great camaraderie right across the board. The CO was the managing Director of Marshall’s Flying Schools and held the rank of Wing Commander.
Clyffe Pypard was about eight miles south of Swindon, overlooking Wootton Bassett and the local bus service was virtually non existent! As well as being the senior navigation and meteorological instructor I was allocated two other appointments, Education Officer and officer i/c bicycles! Everyone wanted a service bicycle; some were old, (probably almost First World War vintage!!) and many were new Hercules with three speed Sturmey Archer gears. Being in charge I was able to take my choice, after the CO, and I had one of the new ones. We cycled everywhere; when going on leave we cycled the eight miles to Swindon where an enterprising soul had taken over a small warehouse near the railway station where cycles could be safely left for a small fee during your absence. (I think the charge was sixpence a day.)
Wherever I had been posted I had always participated actively on church parades and frequently played the organ or piano. Clyffe Pypard was no exception and many friends were made with local chapel congregations wherever we had met. From Wootton Bassett there were regular visits by the local chaplain, a Baptist minister, and every Sunday evening his congregation would send a taxi to collect those of us who wished to join in the local church service. It was reminiscent of a Scotsman’s taxi at times with as many as 10 passengers crammed into it. There was always a meal at one of the houses in the village afterwards!
At last on October 22nd 1944 I had an opportunity to fly again, even if only in a Tiger Moth, to White Waltham and return; at least it made a change and was helpful in getting some map reading exercise. By this time the War was moving well in the Allies’ favour and there were some hopes that it might soon be over. There was a realisation that, when the war ended, there would be lots of servicemen and women with little or nothing to do so a decision was made that everyone in the services would be given an opportunity to take some training of their choice under the Educational and Vocational Training scheme.
In this group chosen to be the lecturers and trainers were airmen and airwomen of all ranks from Wing Commanders to Aircraftwomen Second Class, all having had some degree of experience and training in some sphere of activity before joining the Royal Air Force and in which it was anticipated that they could pass on some of their knowledge to others in the hope of preparing them for their futures back in “Civvy Street”!
I was delegated to instruct in elementary surveying and draughtsmanship and, in order to gather some further assistance many of us met for a senior instructor’s course at Cosford. This gave me an opportunity to take a Tiger Moth again, this time to Cosford. What a cosmopolitan group this was. Architects, Butlers, Chefs and Cooks, Drivers, Engineers, Farriers, Geographers, Haberdashers, Iron Mongers, Janitors, and so I could go on right through the alphabet!! It was most interesting to hear the many suggestions of possible careers which could be opening up as folk were demobbed and tried to settle back into civilian life.
A vivid memory is of Christmas 1944. I was mess treasurer and had bought large stocks for the bar including barrels of beer and cider etc. One evening, two or three nights before Christmas there were only two of us, other than the barman, in the mess. We decided to have a game of snooker and I suggested that it might be an idea to tap a barrel of Wiltshire cider which had just arrived. As a good Methodist I knew that cider, being only apple juice, would be rather good. Little did I realise the potency as Sergeant Wakeman and I drank a pint of cider each. The barman afterwards told us that it took over an hour to pot the blue. This was not surprising as the table just would not stand still! That night we went back to our separate rooms and with much “shushing” but rather noisily we stoked up the tortoise stove with coke to the annoyance of the folk trying to sleep in the hut. The next morning, back in my office, the Fleet Air Arm pupils returned their books and with each turn of the door handle it felt as though a sheet of sandpaper scraped across my head. This had been and was the only night that I have ever been drunk, and on cider at that, and was the first and last time I have had a hangover. Never again have I taken rough cider.
January 1945 arrived and the war still continued; the “Battle of the Bulge” in the Ardennes had slowed down the progress into the Low Countries and Germany; so, the war was not over yet and new intakes of pupils arrived.
On February 24th there was another pleasant opportunity to take a Tiger Moth down to my old base at Gosport. Looking at my logbook it seems that there must have been quite a tail wind that day because it took only 50 minutes to get there but 70 minutes to get back.
Whilst on leave from this station I bought my first car from a farmer at Bradfield in Sheffield . It was a 1934 Jowett 7 HP, as advertised in the Sheffield Telegraph and Star, at £40. My only previous experience of driving a vehicle had been at Agadir when I had driven a gas bag truck on the runway as we laid out the gooseneck flares but, ready for anything, I set off by bus to collect the car. It was a saloon, with a horizontally opposed twin cylinder engine and seemed to be in fair condition as I drove it away feeling on top of the world. Some confidence began to fade as I tried to negotiate the hills around Bradfield and I prayed that the traffic lights would be in my favour as I wended my way down to Malin Bridge. Once on the level from Malin Bridge it was not too difficult and I actually drove down the very rough Moffat Road where Mum and Dad were living. On the way home I called in to the large Kennings Petrol Filling station on Leadmill Road and filled up with petrol at one shilling and ninepence a gallon; (About tenpence a gallon at 2004 price!). Walter Hunt, my sister Norah’s husband, who had for many years been a prisoner of war in Poland was now back home and he gave me a few driving tips before I set off back to Clyffe Pypard, where I was well favoured by other members of the staff as I was the only one with private motorised transport.
Fuel consumption was about 75 miles per gallon so we would travel over to the New Theatre in Oxford and also to several Bristol City or Bristol Rovers football matches.
This was usually with a very full car; two senior NCO’s and two WAAFs in the back and myself and a WAAF in the front. Those “seven horses” were made to work hard!
On 8th May 1945 Field Marshal Keitel unconditionally surrendered and officially the war in Europe was over. That evening, as the Education Officer, I was presenting a film, (can’t remember what it was), in the large hangar; the place was full of RAF, WAAF, Fleet Air Arm and civilian personnel when someone rushed in and shouted that the war was over. All hell broke loose; fire extinguishers were set off; the reel fell off the projector and went rolling down the aisle. Only the next morning were the tangled bits of film collected and rolled back on to the reel. With some disgust we learned that the Government had put an embargo on any members of the armed forces travelling by train for the next 4 days; we were livid and sent a petition to “The Old Codgers” at “Live Letters” in the Daily Mirror asking why those of us who had been instrumental in winning the war were now barred from travelling?
The war, still active in the Far East, remained to be settled and the training of aircrew was to continue, but the Educational and Vocational Training Scheme was now to be brought into operation. My choice of training was to be spent at the motor maintenance workshops getting some idea of motor maintenance whilst I did my stint of teaching surveying and allied subjects..
During my time at Clyffe Pypard I met a very nice girl, Eileen, who was training as a Norland childrens nurse. They were based at Shrivenham, north of Swindon, so my little 7 hp Jowett came into it’s own as I was able to go to meet her. However the car was not really up to long journeys and, in any case, petrol was still severely rationed, so when Eileen went home to Brighton it seemed a better idea for me to fly down to Shoreham and use the bus to Brighton to meet her and then come back by train. On May 27th 1945, on what, in the event, was to be my last flight in the Royal Air Force, I flew down to Shoreham, with W/O Peach who was to fly the plane back to Clyffe Pypard. Shoreham was waterlogged so the big question was, where to land? We headed north looking for an airfield which was open; we saw one but it did not appear on my map so we did not know its’ name. Thankfully, the war being over, railway station signs, roadnames and signposts were now being put in place. After landing we went into the control hut over which was the name “GATWICK”. We were not much wiser! There was someone there showing some concern that a RAF Tiger Moth had landed. Not admitting that we were still not sure where we were I asked what was the quickest and easiest way to get to Brighton. “No problem at all sir,” said the fellow in the hut, “there is a very frequent rail service to Brighton from the station just 200 yards away. So, my very first flight when at the Sheffield University Air Squadron in 1941 had been at Ringway, now Manchester International Airport and this, which turned out to be my last flight in the RAF was to Gatwick, now London’s second airport!
In the meantime, with no means of communication, I had to get down to Brighton and try to find Eileen. I had said in a letter that we would land at Shoreham and I would take a bus to Brighton and meet her at the bus station but time was now slipping by and there seemed a good prospect that she might find that we could not get into Shoreham and decide to go home. A train came and I arrived at Brighton; rushing over to the bus station she was nowhere to be seen and, as I did not have her address, there were no such things as mobile phones in those days, and in any case they were not on the phone it was beginning to look as though a return to Swindon by train with an overnight stay in London was imminent. As I was about to give up Eileen turned up accompanied by a very nice aunt who had persuaded her to have one more tour round the bus station to see if I had arrived. We went back to her home to meet her father and then I went to Eastbourne with her aunt for the night and Eileen came over from Brighton the next morning with her father who had business that day near Eastbourne. My recollection is of taking a rowing boat on the sea; must have been mad, but we had a happy couple of days, not such as would probably have been the mode in 2004 but happy nevertheless! The aunt seemed very keen that her niece should continue her relationship and, I gather, was most disappointed when we finally parted.
The final part of this story can be found at: a5403331
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