Letter from Bill Akrill to his mother



Letter from Bill Akrill to his mother


Bill describes the set up at the Elementary Flying Training School, Theale where there were two flying courses and some Turkish students. He describes his first flight as a passenger which he found 'great'. Goes on to describe flying the next day.

Finds it a bit different being at Sulhamstead House and only having one day off a week, after Aberystwyth, when they could easily go into town. Mentions that the food is good, served up by local women and although they have 'civvy' rations, and quantity is fine.

Postscript detailing amount of pay.




Temporal Coverage



Six page handwritten letter


IBCC Digital Archive


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No 1436220 [inserted] LAC [/inserted] Akrill.
No 26 E.F.T.S.,
Fri. 2nd January 1942 Nr. Reading.

Dear Mum,

Afraid I’ve run out of notepaper & have to fall back on the good old notebook, but I guessed you’d want to hear a bit more than my scribbled note on Wednesday when I was far too tired & sleepy to know what I was writing.

We’re still feeling rather strange here (I am anyway) as its such a change from I.T.W. Yesterday we started off good & proper. We parade outside on the gravel in two groups – flying & lectures. There are, not including the Turks, 2 courses here  ourselves, the junior, and about 20 more in the Senior Course who have passed out & are waiting to go to [deleted] 59 [/deleted] S.F.T.S. Then there’s a complicated arrangement about groups & flights. Joe & I are in different flights but in the same groups. Thus we fly [deleted] & do lec [/deleted] at the same time but from different parts of the field, & do lectures together but do not get the same day off which is a pity. Well, as I was saying we paraded

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[deleted] and [/deleted] with the Turk officers & answered our names. Imagine the excitement when, with a group of officers present, the Sgt. Read out their first name & their [sic] came a [deleted] so [/deleted] high pitched voice out of the darkness, “I am here!” They’re hopeless at marching & drill & it was painful marching behind them to the flying field. Well it was a bad morning so we had to sit around in the Crew Room till the weather cleared after our various instructors had been along & given us the low-down on the plane & instruments &c. Finally the weather cleared somewhat & I grabbed parachute & helmet & booked out at the Timekeeper’s Office & stumped across the field, strapped on my ‘chute, struggled into rear cockpit & strapped myself in. My instructor told me it was to be a purely passenger flight as the C.O. insisted that first flight should be.

We taxied across the field turned gathered speed & up & away leaving the drome buildings below our left wing tip. We flew to Reading & circled by the Thames. My instructor was doing his best to give me some idea of direction & whereabouts but I was quite lost. Then I got demonstrations in pitching, rolling & yawing. Gosh did my heart & stomach come in my mouth the first time he shoved the

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stick forward. Well after 20 minutes we came down & my Inst. asked me how I liked it. My beaming face must have answered him. It was [underlined] great [/underlined]! I was deaf for about an hour after but today I felt no effect. My Inst (I’ll call him [underlined] Mr. H [/underlined] for short) also had a Turk so I got no more that morning. In the afternoon we had lectures, very dull as we’ve done it all at I.T.W. We also got P.T. We do 1/2 hr. every day with the Turks. They’re a funny crowd! [deleted] In the [/deleted] After tea [deleted] we [/deleted] Joe & I went into Reading as we get a chance to go on the service bus once a week. Nothing else to do but pictures though.

Today we should have done lectures in the morning & flying in the afternoon but as the Senior Course are night flying there was no flying this afternoon so we had to get in what we could just before dinner. I got in 45 minutes but as I was at the controls most of the time it didn’t seem anything like long enough. I could have gone on soaring around there high above the lovely Berkshire countryside all day – not that I saw much of it, it was foggy & I was far too busy turning, and keeping the kite level to admire it. I flew for miles along a small river & then had to make turns for lakes, smoke &c. Finally I was shown how

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to decend [sic] with a glide, he’d demonstrated some glides before. Suddenly I realised that we were on the edge of the flying field & I felt Mr. H take the stick but I still had the rudder bar & was giving it plenty of right as instructed & so we made a landing. I’ll never be afraid of attempting a landing alone now I’m sure. Oh folks its glorious!!! I feel like doing a dance every time I think about it. I’ve simply [underlined] got [/underlined] to get through – but I don’t see why I shouldn’t. Of course Tigers nearly fly themselves. They’re the most glorious kites on earth I think. I don’t want to get on any heavy two-engined jobs now. It was grand when three Spitfires zoomed in front & just below my nose & at the same time I saw a Wellington far below.

So much for that. Now about life here. It’s very different being stuck here in Sulhampton [sic] House, from the old days in Aber. when one could always be popping into town, getting to know plenty of people. We get one day off weekly. This week ours is Saturday. What to do I don’t know but it will be a rest anyway. I shall go into Reading as there are a few things I want. Sunday is work as usual. We’re pretty well treated here. Food is cooked & served up by women from the village & we’re waited on by A.C.S. Flying Schools are primarily civilian concerns

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which have been taken over by the RAF. Theale is only a new station & been going since August but it’s still Civvy with RAF. butting in & you never know where you are. We get Civvy rations (to prevent jealousy from the Civvy Staff we’re told) but they’re not too bad for quantity & very well dished up. Flying certainly gives you an appetite.

Sulhampstead House is a glorious place to live in but when it’s not home I don’t care for living so far away from anywhere. It’s a very lovely district as I can see from the air. It’s a pity I don’t know any one in London or round about as a lot of the boys have gone up tonight to spend their day off there. I [underlined] thought [/underlined] of hitch hiking home but not very seriously. Max & some of the old flight go to Brough near Hull today. I’m sure I could have got home from there. Well I’ll perhaps be home soon & have plenty to tell you.

Glad to get your letter. Poor old pear tree. It won’t be at all like home but it was certainly not much use however ornamental it may have been though I’m sure there be no fruit on any new trees that are planted.

Best love to everybody [underlined] Bill [/underlined] PTO.

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Now getting 7/6 a day but have to pay 5/- a week insurance. I believe I’m now liable for income tax but I don’t suppose it will be deducted.



William Akrill, “Letter from Bill Akrill to his mother,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed September 28, 2021, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/18004.

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