Book 1, Commencing My Life in the R.A.F. up till the End of I.T.W.



Book 1, Commencing My Life in the R.A.F. up till the End of I.T.W.


First of David Geach's diaries, covering training in London, Brighton and St. Andrews from 9 February 1942 to 16 June 1942.


Temporal Coverage



One handwritten diary


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[underlined] S.O. Book 136. (Indexed) [/underlined]
Code 28-74-0.
G [crest] R
T. 1599. Wt. 10569. 16,500 Bks. 2/38. P.I.
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[underlined] BOOK 1 [/underlined]
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[underlined] Monday February 9th. [/underlined]
Something gave me the wild idea, of trying to keep a diary of my life in the R.A.F. and try is the right word, for I doubt if it will last more than a fortnight. I was sworn in as a U/T Pilot last August & have been waiting until to-day when I at last entered the R.A.F. My first day is now over.
Five of us from work, met & arrived here at 10 A.M. Bill Wren was separated from us, as he is an Observer, then Frank P & Frank B, were put in Flight 6, whilst Len Bacon & I went in Flight 9. We hung about this morning at Lords Cricket Ground, filled in numerous forms, & had a quick medical. Later we marched to the clothing stores, this is a converted garage, a big place, & out of it recruits were pouring with, kit-bag
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articles of clothing, on their arms, & tin helmet on their head, a most comical sight. Inside we hurried from counter to counter & emerged in the same rag-a-muffin state as the others, the evacuation of Dunkirk had nothing on us.
We marched to our quarters then, a big block of flats, called Hall Rd. [indecipherable word], & then to dinner. It was then 4-30 P.M. & I had been since 8 a.m. without a bite. Food isn’t too bad not cooked well though. After, we went back & made our beds, & checked the kits, then we were found to be in the wrong room, some corporals fault, so we undid the beds & dragged them away. We had to stay in to-night other nights we have 5-30 – 10.30 off Sat, 1.30 – 23-59 Sun 12.30 – 10.30. Lights out are at 11.0 p.m Reveille 6 A.M. I’ve written a fair bit about my first day so being tired I’m off to [deleted] bed[/deleted]. bed.
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[underlined] Thursday Feb. 12th [/underlined]
Our first week is well under way now, it’s a swine in the morning, reveille at 6 A.M, & we should be washed, dressed, shaved, beds made, room swept, kit cleaned & at breakfast by 6.30. Its pitch black & we have to queue in the dark & cold for about half an hour before we get in the dining hall, its underground. As I said before, food is none too good. Our day consists mainly of marching, lectures & drill. Weve [sic] had 2 hours Morse & have to receive 4 w.p.m at the end of the week, & 2 hours maths yesterday & 2 tomorrow, exam is at end of week also. These exams decide whether we go to I.T.W or Brighton (for further training) or stay here a bit longer. Had a lecture by Group Captain – name is Gillighan was a Kent cricketer
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decent chap – at Swiss Cottage Odeon. Haven’t been home or out any night yet.
[underlined] Friday Feb 13th [/underlined]
We no longer jump out of bed at reveille, we’re all dog-tired & half-asleep in the day. Had our final 2 hours Maths to-day & then the exam this afternoon, we went to Regents Park Zoo for it. Funny to sit & watch lions walking round, while doing maths. Dont [sic] think I did too well, guess its Brighton for me. [deleted] [indecipherable letter] [/deleted] Tailor saw our uniforms Wednesday, & we took them to the stores for alteration yesterday. Got them back to-day & all tried them on, doesn’t look too bad, all nice & new though. We have to scrub our room to-night for C.O’s inspection to-morrow. Dont [sic] think I mentioned it,
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we have to put our 3 ‘biscuits’ (small mattresses) with blankets & 2 sheets in certain order & position, & towel laid on bed every day, & if anything’s an inch out theres [sic] hell of a row. Am meeting Mary at dance to-night if I can make it.
[underlined] Monday Feb 16th. [/underlined]
Got to dance with Len Bacon, & saw the old pals at office, only had 1 1/2 hours there. On C.O’s inspection he saw a pair of boots on a bed instead of under, & a case in sight, so he declared the room disgraceful, & we stayed in for our Saturday afternoon, washing doors, while every one else had gone out or home. I just managed to catch Mary in time at Holborn Stn. & we went to the ‘Globe’ & saw Evelyn Williams in his play “The Morning Star” Got back by 11-10 P.M. On Sunday we
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marched around trying to find a church for church parade, as the one we should have attended didn’t hold 1500 like they claimed. The padre was decent & only said a prayer lasting 3 mins so we would be able to get home early. Booked out & was home at ten to one. All asked hundreds of questions. Mary came over, I slept most of time, arrived back at 10-10.
Yesterday was busy day, went to Odeon for lectures in morning, did P.T for first time in the afternoon, in gym kit, pretty cold. Then gas lecture & had to march & drill with bare necks, & no greatcoats in the street. Regular swine our corporal, tiny chap too, guess he’s after his third stripe. Wrote letters
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this evening. We’ve got our inoculations to-morrow, & we’re in a funk, according to the tales we’ve heard most of the chaps faint on the spot. Also on guard all night so we should be in a sorry state by Wednesday.
[underlined] Tuesday (afternoon) Feb 17th [/underlined]
Well our inoculations are over, & they’re not too bad so far. Marching there we saw a couple of fellows who had had it, being helped along, so it didn’t cheer us. We had two in the chest and Vaccination & Blood Testing in the arm. About three or four came over groggy & faint in our flight, we’ve got all the afternoon off until 5-30 p.m when we parade for guard, our arms are beginning to stiffen, & our chests ache so will need something to get us through it.
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[underlined] Thursday Feb 19th [/underlined]
Feeling quite A.1 again now, we did our guard, although by Army Regulations, we should have 48 hours off after inoculations, 44 of the flight had light duties – like pickets etc. & had the usual nights ‘sleep’, but I happened to be one of the unlucky ones, and I with five others did guard at the door, 2 on & 4 off, & got snatches of sleep somehow but was half asleep all yesterday. Light day though only fitted for oxygen masks & collected identity cards & discs, my plate in it looks as though I’ve all the cares of the world on my shoulders. Today we had our first pay parade, terrific amount of waiting etc. all for 30/-. This afternoon we had a lecture by the padre, a
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real decent fellow, a pilot of the last war incidentally. He particularly impressed upon us that many of us would come off the pilots course a
& finish as an [deleted] bomber [/deleted] observer or W.O.P. – Air Gnr. Marched half-way round London & dashed to Abbey Lodge for a medical. Somehow I didn’t have to have one as my last was only six months ago, four others were in the same position. So am looking forward to a quiet night and a good bath, tonight if I can make it.
[underlined] Tuesday Feb 24th [/underlined]
Have let this slip for a bit, so have lot of writing to do. Same old bind marching, drilling etc. & cursing the corps. guts, in the C.Os inspection the gas-capes weren’t rolled with the buttons dead in the front. Maybe this sort of stuff will
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make us better pilots, I don’t quite see how though. Got home alright Sat & Sun, stood waiting for an hour before Church parade Been trying to get our thirteen pieces of webbing into one for the march past on Wednesday. We assemble it, roll the gas capes dead to 15 ins, & then have to take it down, put it together again, nothing but messing around. Have been shown films of engineering, inventions, road-building, & farming, so were [sic] beginning to wonder what were [sic] here for, anyway we sleep through them. We do P.T in Regents park, talk about brass monkeys, were nearly frozen. Had to parade in full webbing & kit packed to be inspected to-day, & stood for an hour in it, our backs were nearly broken
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We were supposed to have an Inter Flight Drill competition to-day, but the C.O said we were the smartest [inserted] - ? [/inserted] easily, so it isn’t being held. We should worry about the honour, our corp. will be a good way to getting his third stripe, out of our sweat, but will find nothing extra in our pay packet. Every other flight have their grading results, but 9 Flight, last as usual, has nothing. We might get our posting to-morrow – expect we’ll all be for the Sunny South. We’re leaving here Saturday anyway, & are confined to camp Friday night, so it will be good-bye to A.C.R.C. or assie-tassie as they call it, we won’t weep tears over leaving anyway, wonder if anyone will do the corporal on a dark night.
[underlined] Thursday Feb 26th [/underlined]
Still preparing for this march
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past, it still hasn’t come off. We spent most of yesterday standing around in our full pack & webbing until in the afternoon we were inspected by the Squadron commander. He found various little faults as usual, & we had to stay in to correct them, I with 24 others were ordered to have hair-cuts, they even have Air Force regulations for this – no hair should be longer than two inches. Then we had to wait for our pay books making the time 8.30 P.M. I was going home to say good-bye but it was then impossible. My night vision is above average, only a couple of others had that, doubt if it will mean anything.
Had our posting results to-day, I’ve been graded C, that’s passed signals, failed maths,
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so I’m going to Brighton. Out of those from work, Bill Wren & Len Bacon are going to I.T.W, & Frank P, Frank B & Ken Wyatt are coming with me. Our famous flat 32 (we’ve been in more trouble than any other flat in the building, had the honour of being the first flat to be kept in by [deleted] him [/deleted] [inserted] Caesar [/inserted] is well split up. Ken, Ray & Frank are going to one I.T.W (incidentally Ken went sick to-day & that defers his posting) Len & Tom to another I.T.W, whilst Pete, Ernie, George Mike & Bill, & myself head south. “Taffy” & Ralph aren’t posted yet for they are undergoing eye training. We shan’t be sorry to leave this place, but its a shame our flat couldn’t stick together. We’re waiting for another inspection to-day, by the Squadron Comdr. If we’re kept in to-night
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there’ll be almost a riot. An order has come through that we have to acquaint ourselves with the Group Captain’s car, & salute it every time it passes in the street. I guess that is supposed to shorten the war somehow. [inserted] – Farmer and then Bill Wren is for Brighton like me. [/inserted]
[underlined] Three Hours Later [/underlined]
C.O’s inspection now over & wonder of wonders he said, we were about the best he had seen & it was a [underlined] very good show [/underlined]! So we’re free now at four ock, [sic] so am going home at 5.30 when we can book out, & enjoy the last night with the family and Mary.
[underlined] Friday Feb 26th [/underlined]
This is the last entry I shall make at A.C.R.C. we leave tomorrow morning, the times of departure will be announced to-night. We have just finished packing
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& its a hell of a job to get everything in our packs. Tomorrow we all go our various ways, its a shame really to break all the crowd up, for they’re all decent chaps, wonder when we shall meet again. Felt the first twinge of pride in the R.A.F, that the Fl/lt was always lecturing about, yesterday, when after all our sweating & cursing at the corporal, we marched along, the smartest turn-out there, I guess it was for our own good after all.
We have done nothing but hang around to-day, its been nice & easy for a change. I’ve been posted to ‘M’ Flight at Brighton. I wonder what kind of a place it is and what the fellows are like, still I’ll know soon enough. Seeing its our last night I guess all ‘Flat 32’ will go out on the beer & wake up feeling awful to-morrow – well next time I write will be at Brighton.
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[underlined] Monday March 2nd [/underlined]
We’re now at Brighton & are viewing it with mixed feelings I don’t like it so much as A.C.R.C. Our billet is the Hotel Metropole & is a fine big place overlooking the sea. There are three others in this room, Frank P, Bill Monk, who was in my flat at Hall Rd, & a chap named John, who came off a WOP/AG’s course. The room has bare stone floor which isn’t so bad, but there is no heating, & no wash bowl, & about four roomfull’s [sic] of fellows use the one opposite, that makes about 25 chaps to one wash-basin. All windows & doors are open throughout the day & a perpetual gale sweeps through.
This seems to be a worse place for red-tape – we have a stronger word for it. I’ll give a few examples, we have to green
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blanco the respirators – against K.R’s by the way – which makes them an evil green & destroys their water-proofing ability. White blanco our flashes, do own P.T shoes all over with blacking, even John who has brown shoes. A coat-hangar is issued & the gas-cape is hung in a certain manner – different to that at A.C.R.C. – over it. The blankets etc. are folded the same, but sheets must be rolled & flattened until they are the same thickness as the blankets. Towel is laid out touching the biscuits & kit-bag laid under the bed with end of it in line with edge of towel. Boots & P.T shoes & water-bottle are stood in order at the foot of the bed. The mug – issued to us – is placed in the centre of the towel, with knife handle downwards in centre, spoon on the left & fork on the right, oh! & the handle of the mug must point to the right. All this & 67 miles across this water – Jerry is training like hell to smash us.
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The food here is cooked by women however, & is decent, we actually had [underlined] egg [/underlined] & bacon for Sunday breakfast. No church parade yesterday & after 12 we viewed the town & sea, visited a cinema at night, lot longer show than in London. I am now in ‘B’ Flight, & there are 151 in this, our day is from 7.40 parade. – then classes from 8 A.M. till 12-35 & 2.0 P.M. till 6.15 P.M. so were [sic] gonna be busy. With all this cleaning etc. we won’t have many evenings out either. Fellow in room opposite heard his brother – Spitfire pilot – was killed on ops’ yesterday, so applied for compassionate leave. C.O was away so they told him to wait until to-day & some pilot officer (ground staff) airily remarked “Oh: well weve [sic] all got to go sometime you know”. He got leave to-day. Well will see what life is [inserted] like [/inserted] here this week.
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[underlined] Thursday March 5th (morning) [/underlined]
It is a difficulty to find a moment to make entries in this diary, down here. Out time is fully occupied, parade 7.40 then classes at 8-0 till 12.30 with 1/4 hours break, we queue for dinner then, & parade again at 1.40 for classes at 2.0 until 6-15 when we queue for tea. It is like a school for we change from Signals to Morse or Lecture etc every hour. We certainly have enough Maths, and I only pray I’ll pass the exam. Queuing for meals is better than Hall Rd, it winds in single file right up the stair-cases to the 5th floor, but they certainly get rid of them quickly.
Our room is on the 5th floor & we have 145 stairs to climb each time. The routine of blanco etc. hasn’t been as binding as we thought & time passes quickly.
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The C.O. doesn’t seem too bad after all, a bit strict but he’s fair. The chaps billeted in the Grand Hotel next door have a worse time than us, their food isn’t so good, & the squadron-leader they have for a C.O. well – I spoke to some fellows who were on ‘Jankers’ & asked their offences. One got 7 days jankers for a tunic button being dirty, another two had 7 days one for speaking and the other for looking round when they had been ‘Standing at Ease’ for half-hour. On an inspection this C.O. takes a piece of string with him & runs it up the blanket pack & if its 1/4” out [deleted] they get [/deleted] of the required width they get a warning & 3 days fatigues, if it happens to be 1/4" out again – jankers. All these little trimmings are added because ours is supposed to be a disciplinary course.
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One good thing, we’ve had nothing like the amount of “square bashing” I expected. I’ve got a huge lump like a tumour [deleted] come up [/deleted] [inserted] appear [/inserted] on my left knee, so I reported sick. The M.O. felt it & said it was nothing, & when I asked if it would go away he replied he doubted if it would, - it didn’t trouble him as long as it doesn’t injure my body in any way that would prevent me doing the job the R.A.F. wants, it reminds me in a disgusting way of breeding cattle. Its strange really because most of the M.O’s are really decent & know their work from A – Z & look after you ever so well.
Did my first guard here Tues. night, I was black-out patrol, a nice early ‘mike’, I had usual sleep. Owing to being on guard though, I missed swimming in the Organised Games afternoon, and I regretted that a great deal.
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[underlined] Saturday March 7th – (afternoon) [/underlined]
One week is now over, had our first real drill period on Friday, but was nothing compared with that at A.C.R.C. On Thursday after I had made the last entry we went to the ‘Princes’ Hall, a ball-room taken over by the R.A.F, & had a lecture by a Wing-Comdr. from Air-Sea Rescue. We had heard most of the stuff before but he gave us some interesting tales. Out of 1800 rescues made only 2 have worked perfectly from the time of ditching to the rescue, snags nearly always crop up. Another time a Hun pilot landed in the drink in mid-Channel, & E-boats & our H.S.L’s both went for him. The Messerschmitt escort shot up two of our boats & the crews took to the life-boat. So we sent three Hurricanes
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who shot down one Messerschmitt, & chased the other two back. So along came 12 Mess & back went our 3 Hurricanes, Fighter-Command didn’t like it so up went 12 Hurricanes & ding-dong it went. Meantime the Navy had sent our surface craft to clean the Channel of E-boats – so a small war waged all over one man. It only ended with coming darkness, for both sides had reinforcements standing by, & because an E-boat picked up the Hun. Some of the things they have on these rubber dinghies are still hush-hush. One is an invention which marvellously changes a quarter of a pint of sea-water into [underlined] drinking water [/underlined]. Another was a tin of soup & you lit a small tab on the top with waterproof matches & in 7 mins there was a can of hot soup. A small wireless is now included & they are experimenting with a
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rocket-kite to be fired from a pistol to carry up the aerial about 200 ft. Other gadgets such as floatable torch, floatable knife certainly make it a wonderful achievement. Had our usual quota of maths & signals. Today because a couple of rooms were dirty on inspection, we were all confined to barracks this afternoon & this evening, but cheers! its now been cancelled. I’m off to try & find a photographer’s to record this ugly dial.
[underlined] Tuesday March 10th (afternoon) [/underlined]
Had a look round the town Saturday, visited photographers, & then we finished with visit to cinema. Sunday was a nice restful day, with [underlined] egg, [/underlined] bacon & sausage for breakfast again, then church parade. There is a lot less hanging around for the Church parade than at A.C.R.C.
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In the afternoon we spent a lovely lazy afternoon, lounging on a seat in the sunshine, on the prom. I filled the afternoon by writing, a letter to Mary & sun-bathing at the same time. A short alert was sounded, first I’ve heard for ages, only gun fire was heard in the distance. On news it was announced that a Heinkel was shot down at Worthing by the convoy we had seen pass through. A M.T.B & a cable-ship were hove-to here most of the day. There is ample opportunity for aircraft rec. here as numerous types are constantly skimming the houses. Sunday evening was spent in the usual cleaning routine. A good part of Monday was spent in drill, but was most enjoyable in the sun, its marvellous the amount of people who stop to stare, we’d be the envy of all buskers. There’s certainly no war –
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- effort noticeable among a throng of pleasure-seekers, & nice wealthy people who have left the noise of bomb-battered London. Two hours were spent this morning in cleaning the room to the nth degree for Wing-Comdr’s inspection. Marvel of marvels he found no faults & some late passes were actually issued. I collected the photographs to-day & they were so lousy I promptly destroyed them. I have a break now as it is Org Games this afternoon & I intend to go swimming.
[underlined] Wednesday March 11th (dinner-time) [/underlined]
We had an enjoyable swim yesterday afternoon, in a small sea-water baths 25 yds by 10 yds. There were 90 of us in it, but when it cleared it was pretty comfortable. In the evening we went to the Theatre Royal, where the management allow us in the 3/6d seats for 1/-
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pretty decent of them. The show was “Other People’s Houses”, I had seen it at the Ambassadors, but this was a good performance. One point I forgot to mention [deleted] was [/deleted] in the previous entry was that on Monday we set up a record for dressing, washing & making bed-packs. We slept until 7.20 & had to parade at 7.40, boy! did we move but we made it alright. Yesterday they tried to catch us napping without our respirators, by letting tear-gas loose without warning, but we got through alright. Today its been pouring all day, & I guess we were down for drill, for we’ve been hanging about doing nothing, so I seized this opportunity of making this entry. Some baa-lamb annexed our electric light bulb last night & substituted another dim one, so it looks like a raiding expedition for us to-night. Ah! dinner-time I’m off.
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[underlined] Friday March 13th (morning) [/underlined]
Usual programme of maths, signals, drill etc. beginning to get keyed up for the exam on Tues, one moment I think I can certainly pass & then the next I can’t see how I can possibly do it, still we’ll just have to wait and see. Its Friday 13th to-day & although I’m not superstitious, I’m wondering if Fate has any surprises in store. We all returned from our ops’ Wed. night complete with bright new bulb, no casualties though a few narrow squeaks. The fellow who is the sorry owner of the dim bulb, will now do some switching & so it goes on.
Yesterday all the airmen down here that could possibly be spared, paraded for the Wing march-past. We all paraded just by the Aquarium on Marine Parade, & then all marched past
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the Wing Comdr who takes the salute. This bright idea & waste of time originates from him only, and the dais he stands on to take the salute, was built just for that purpose, of, concrete, bricks & steel, all materials needed for the war-effort, at a cost of £120. Then a semi-patriotic address followed, in which he excused the petty rules, such as position of drinking mug etc. as training to make us good pilots. He is the one responsible for blancoing the respirators, some of these pocket dictators make me sick. Still maybe it will end one fine day, & we’ll really get cracking on what we joined up for.
Last night I was on guard & got fire-picket, 2 0n, 4 off, as usual. We cut for different guards & with my usual abomidable [sic] luck, I drew a 3 & last guard, so only had 4 hours sleep, well I’ll never be able to make that up so will probably fall asleep in classes.
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[underlined] Monday March 16th (morning) [/underlined]
The week-end seems to have flown by, it usually does, but this week-end has gone [deleted] unuas [/deleted] unusually quickly, due to the fact no doubt, that both our Maths & Signals exams are to-day. Signals is next hour & Maths this afternoon, naturally were [sic] in a blue funk, still maybe all will come right in the end.
We’ve met no end of fellows who’ve passed here, gone to I.T.W, then they gave them a similar exam, right away, heaven knows why, & there chaps [deleted] made [/deleted] [inserted] came [/inserted] a cropper & back they came. This is about the easiest course to become discouraged and ‘browned-off’ on. Here are we desperately wanting to fly & fight, & they do everything they can to stop you, & cause failures by exams which have no bearing on the course. Lord knows how many, excellent pilots-to-be have been put off, just because
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they were rusty on Equations or another minor branch of Maths. It certainly drives me into the frame of thought, that it is impossible to even be a pilot.
Frank & I had a most pleasant surprise yesterday, when Ken Little & Frank Jose, shouted to us on the prom. They were on their annual leave & had started on a cycling holiday, & their first stop was Brighton. It was like a bolt from the blue to see some-one from the office down here - & fairly knocked us back. Frank B then came along, & we three listened to all the news they had of the office. Ken was attested for the R.A.F last week, so we gave him all the ‘gen’ on our course.
A terrific amount of activity was going on here yesterday, with planes whizzing around, M.T.B’s scurrying along with convoys, a miniature invasion almost. ‘A’ & ‘C’ flights have been drafted for overseas, I don’t know whether I envy or pity them.
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[underlined] Wednesday March 18th [/underlined]
Well our exams are over now, I managed to scrape 100% in Morse, the other three also got through, we’re all hanging on now just waiting for the maths results, its pretty binding. Tuesday saw us taking another exam, this time the Gas exam still it was pretty easy & it doesn’t count with posting. The rest of the day was usual routine.
On Wednesday afternoon we had the Organised Games, & being as it was persistently raining, they abandoned football, rugger & swimming & we were all supposed to go on a 5 mile run. The prospect of running through the rain had no attractions for us, so about 9 of us stayed in a room until the transport had left, luckily there was no roll-call. The buses were supposed to take them 5 miles.
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out & they had to run back, half of them jumped out at the first corner. This evening we’re going to a Wing Concert at Prince’s Hall – should be good.
[underlined] Friday March 20th [/underlined]
Feel bucked now, our results have arrived, all four of us have passed, & we went on posting parade. Once more the splitting up begins, Frank & Bill are going to 8 I.T.W Newquay, John is staying here for a week, whilst I am going to 12 I.T.W at St Andrews. Phew! what a journey its over 500 miles from here & I guess we’ll move off to-night. Guess we’ll have to struggle with the packs and everything once more, still we should be able to snatch some sleep, one of the fellows said its supposed to be under snow there – Anyway I guess we’ll know soon enough, I’m a bit sorry to leave this station it
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has been fairly ‘cushy’ considering, & besides missing old Bill & Frank, I shall be at a station without another fellow from the office for the first time. A week ago Ken Wyatt was taken to hospital with a temperature of 103o & he’s still no better – poor chap. I don’t know where Bill Wren is posted to, he’s on this floor.
The Wing Concert on Wednesday, was an excellent show, & they only had a week to rehearse it. The C.O & his wife were there and they enjoyed the cracks made at him. About the biggest laugh came when in the middle of an act a fellow in pyjamas came out rubbing his eyes & enquired “Anyone seen a broom?” – we shall certainly remember Brighton by this cry. For in the morning when we have to sweep our rooms in a short space of time, there are about 5 brooms to
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70 rooms, hence the plaintive cry. Another pet phrase is “You’ve had it,” meaning its your lot” “or your end is in sight” thats [sic] about as near as it can be translated. One fellow in his gas exam said “Apply anti-gas ointment to a mustard gas burn within two minutes otherwise – you’ve had it.” Ah! well I guess I might as well draw this diary’s life at Brighton to a close, it goes on a 4 – 500 mile journey to-night, like me it is certainly seeing life. Well the next entry will be made in the land of the heather.
[underlined] Monday March 23rd [/underlined]
Here I am safe & sound across the border, & the week-end and introduction to our course are now over. The actual travelling time was 19 hours for the journey we paraded at 4.45 p.m Friday at Brighton & reached St. Andrews dead at noon Saturday. There
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wasn’t a great deal of hanging about which is so usual on postings – but the night express to Edinburgh was 2 1/2 hours late owing to thick mist. It was my first visit to Scotland, & I expected very rugged scenery, but being on the East Coast the countryside is very pleasing.
St Andrews is very old-worldly, & the architecture seems a trifle grim to my English eye, but it’s a very nice town. We have a comfortable billet in a nice small hotel named Abbotsford. Oh! by the way I forgot to mention our journey was accomplished on 3 small sandwiches, a pork pie – our rations & 6d sustenance allowance – they certainly think we’re tough here. To resume everything is top-hole here – the food, accomodation, [sic] beds & a hundred other small details that can make or mar a billet. If we’re lucky
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& don’t fail our maths exam on Weds week, (& I’m praying to the Lord that I don’t for I want to stay on this course) then we complete a ten week course & go on a weeks leave at the end of it.
The course itself means constant swotting from the word go, we take our exams in Aircraft Recog. – we have to know 86 types – Signals – 6 w.p.m in sending & receiving both buzzer & Aldis lamp – Navigation, Law & Administration, [inserted] Anti-Gas [/inserted] Hygiene, & Armaments. We’ll certainly have to get cracking. We started work to-day & have to know 27 types of planes at the end of the week & as I know practically nothing about it I’ll have to make it somehow. The drill here is very lively 140 to the minute all the time for marching [deleted] bu [/deleted] but as the air is very bracing it should keep us fit, also we have 2 Organised Games a week.
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The officers & N.C.O’s here are very decent & the C.O. seems a sport, our corporal is a real decent guy, a Scottish Rugby international – Barry – we also have a Middlesex cricketer here so were [sic] among stars.
We had 2 hrs maths to-day we only have 10 hrs before the exam Also we had our first tuition on the Vickers G.O. Gun to-day & the corporal came out with one of the smartest cracks I’ve heard – we asked when the guns we use for dismantling were last fired - & he said he guessed it was when Pontius was a Pilate (pilot). Very neat I thought. Also they are absolutely keen on cleanness & this squadron is a crack-one & we never wear great-coats – being as it is fine weather its alright now. Well I guess I’d better get cracking on some home-work, & some button-cleaning then a bath & off to bed.
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[underlined] Thursday March 26th [/underlined]
There is not a lot of time to keep a diary at this station either, but I’ve managed to grab this opportunity of bringing it up to date. We are now approaching the end of our first week in St. Andrews, & its about the [deleted] easiest [/deleted] [inserted] best [/inserted] place we’ve struck yet – some of the fellows who have 3 years service in think the same. We have Tues & Friday afternoons off for organised games & Saturday afternoon & Sunday, so things are very pleasant. Mind you with our lectures & everything we certainly have to work as well – but there’s no cause for complaint.
The food is still excellent although I don’t care for the porridge, still I don’t think it is “pukka” Scotch porridge so I can’t criticise their famous body-building diet.
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We have been cracking at aircraft rec. this week & are supposed to know 27 [inserted] planes [/inserted] by Monday, that means know them perfectly. We’ve also had 2 lectures on the Vickers Gas Operated Gun – still we’re not troubling about any of those until we pass or if we pass our maths. I don’t think the Maths tuition we get here is as good as Brighton, still that was a Maths course. Exercise abounds – we get a tidy quota of drill & games, our P.T. instructor is sick at the moment. Last night seven of us went rowing out into the bay, we got in before darkness fell. It was grand, the sea was fairly choppy, & we rose & pitched like a cork – the sea certainly has its attractions. I also went for a sail on our Games afternoon Tues. – as my knee is still ‘whoozy’ &
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I didn’t chance football – and we went a hell of a way out, & the Beauforts from the nearby drome made dummy attacks at us.
Today saw us doing a 3 1/2 mile cross-country run, the first 5 will compete in the Wing run. Our crowd kept together & stayed just with the front few for most of the course to satisfy ourselves we could do it & then dropped back. Only the Wing run is on a Saturday & were [sic] sure we’ll be doing something important then. The inspections here are about the strictest I’ve met, both personal & room inspections. They certainly keep one looking smart & insist upon smart walking always as well. If we stay to finish this course we should be well licked into shape. Guess I’d better get on with some studying now.
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[underlined] Monday March 30th [/underlined]
Our first week here is over now, there should have been a ‘D’ Flight come in here Saturday but it was cancelled, so we still have the place to ourselves. Which is very nice seeing we have plenty of food & all is nice & cosy. We covered a good deal of ground with our lectures & had plenty of work to do in the evenings, at present we’re concentrating on Maths for we have that exam Wednesday. So we’re offering up our prayers for we don’t wish to be taken off the course now.
Friday was our second games afternoon, but I didn’t do anything in particular, for I’m having trouble with the knee again. Incidentally I reported sick with it to-day, & the Sqdn Ldr who is the Chief M.O. told me it was
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unusual, so he thought it might be a torn ligament protruding, & I have to report again in 4 days, & might see a specialist.
Saturday afternoon we decided to walk across the links to – an operational ‘drome there, & get a look round. We splashed through all the mud where the tide had retreated, to try and make a short cut, & then over ploughed fields. We never reached there however, & were just starting a 4 mile tramp along the road back when two W.A.A.F’s gave us a lift in a lorry – bless ‘em. I had a crack at dancing in the evening & found various things different from the English way, but we got on alright. Church parade was over Sunday by 10.0 A.M. – we have a good padre he certainly has faith. – In the afternoon I was deciding to
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try to learn the ancient game of ‘gowf’, we couldn’t find any golf-balls though, so it squashed the whole idea. Today an Air-Marshall came visiting, he saw us when we were in the hall seeing slides for aircraft rec.
Well I certainly feel A.1. & on top of life here & eating like a horse. Yesterday evening we had a fine ‘scratch’ game of soccer on a smooth stretch of sands – we get plenty of exercise in every way. At [deleted] pres [/deleted] [inserted] the [/inserted] moment we’re practising for a drill competition, though I doubt if we stand much chance of bringing it off. It was a Scotch holiday or else just a merchants holiday to-day & all shops were closed and lots of bagpipe skirlings came from the University. Ah! a final plunge into the maths book, & with Gods Help next time I write I may have safely negotiated the exam
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[underlined] Wednesday April 1st [/underlined]
I am making this entry whilst on fire-picket, this is an easy guard duty at this station also, I was lucky enough to get this last week as well. We have [deleted] long [/deleted] nothing to do as long as we stay here & about 10.0 – 11.0 the Orderly officer generally turns us out on a practice fire. Last night they were turned out at 9-30 & 4 were missing, - they are on fatigue’s tonight. Then they had the shock of their lives for at 11.0 the Wing Cmdr, the Earl of Haddington by the way, arrived & turned them out. Half of them didn’t know where the appliances were or how to use them, but I don’t think any complaints were made.
We didn’t do anything out of the usual yesterday morning – an extra maths period was given us.
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The afternoon was our Org. Games afternoon, but owing to the weather – it rained on & off all day – no games were arranged. So Bob, Bill & I went out in a rowing-boat, there was a hell of wind & current running, & then a beauty of a storm descended on us. We could only run before it, & when it lifted we were drenched through, & a good way from the harbour, we had to row like the dickens to get back.
This morning we took the exam at 8-30 A.M. & I think all our room got through – thank the Lord – for we didn’t want to be split – it wasn’t so bad. For two hours to-day we’ve been on rifle drill for a lot didn’t know any when mounting guard – it reminds me of the days in the H.G. – a bind though – Blast that’s the O.O turning us out must dash off –
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[underlined] Saturday April 4th. [/underlined]
The last few days the weather here has been dull & squally, & we’ve had to drill on the sea-front in driving rain – we got thoroughly soaked yesterday. Today was a decent day though & we had the drill competition – as I thought, we didn’t win it but we were by far the newest flight in it. We were complimented by the adjudicating officer on our show & he said it was better than his regiment could have done - & he was a Lt-col in the Seaforth’s so all was not lost.
This week we had a dental inspection & practically everyone is a ‘victim’, I have to have about 2 filled, & the ‘executions’ started Thursday – I think my turn is on Monday. Now our maths are over we have commenced our Navigation, which is the main
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subject in our course. the other night we had some excitement in a rowing-boat Bob & Bill, & myself were out together, & were having the deuce of a time keeping into the bay against a strong current & wind, when suddenly a storm broke. It rained & then hailed, & being as we were in jackets we we [sic] drenched, but the worst part was we were swept out from the harbour. When the weather cleared it took us about 3/4 hour to row back, the boat-man told us when he saw us go, he was about to [deleted] settl [/deleted] set out in the motor-launch. For two cadets were all but drowned the week we arrived. Still it was fun.
A new flight, ‘D’ arrived from A.C.R.C. to-day. It seems they are mainly D grade – all grades are posted to I.T.W’s now, not like us – still I think they lose
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by not going to Brighton. It will seem a bit crowded here now. My knee seems better although not cured – but I have finished with sick parades. We had another 4 mile run on Thursday – if this keeps up we might be able to give Wooderson some tips.
Looking back I find I haven’t mentioned who the five other fellows in this room are. Ron is from Goodmayes, Carl from Yorkshire, Alan from Maidenhead, & Bill & Bob from Glasgow. So actually I am the only one from London. The other night Bill got muddled in the dates & the night he should have been on guard he was playing golf. He was placed on a charge, but luckily got away with only 3 days ‘jankers’. Well its Easter Saturday to-day & I guess ordinarily I would be working so I guess I’m a lot better here.
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[underlined] Thursday April 9th. [/underlined]
Been pretty busy this week & had no time to keep this up-to-date. Our lectures have become more concentrated lately & we have had a lot of evening work to do. We are rapidly progressing in our Navigation which promises to be an interesting subject. Our drill seems to have been shelved lately – most probably on account of the uncertain weather. On Monday though, when Corporal Barry was taking us the Sqdn Flt/Sgt crept across the golf-course & took us for drill. He did everything in his power to make us mess it up as much as possible. Its impossible to describe it, but orders barked unintelligibly, constant marching backwards & forwards – anything to bind us.
Our games Tues afternoon I played rugger in a drizzling rain, and was well knocked about – I was
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just recovering from those aches & pains when I had to attend the dentist & had two teeth drilled. To complete the day in the afternoon we were given 2 inoculations – 3 times as strong as those at A.C.R.C. and it certainly shook us. I know my arm ached like the very devil, & the mild attack of fever we had gee! it was - & still is awful. This morning we felt sick, & hot & cold by turns, although we are recovering now, our arms seem to be locked with pain. Tomorrow I return to the tender care of the dentist for another filling.
This morning 12 fellows were put on a charge for being in bed 1/2 hour after reveille (one was in our room – Ron) they all got 3 days jankers – tough luck seeing they felt queer. Bob has obtained a week-end pass & his girl has leave – so he’s home to Glasgow – he hasn’t seen her in uniform she joined the [deleted] AA [/deleted] WRNS – 4 months ago.
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[underlined] Sunday April 12th. [/underlined]
Taking advantage of our one real restful day in the week, I am making this entry. The latter part of each week always passes far more quickly than the first, for Friday afternoon is reserved for games & Saturday afternoon & Sunday are free so we don’t overburden ourselves with work then. My visits to the dentist are at an end, & he declared me ‘finished’, in exactly what sense of the word I don’t know. My arm is less painful now, so I am beginning to feel A.1. again.
During the past week we have had 8 A.T.C. officers attached to the Sqdn – to get an insight on R.A.F. life. One took us for drill the other day he was quite O.K. – On Saturday we went out onto the dunes and had our first experience at reading
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Aldis lamp – I progressed none too well. The same day we also elected our C.F.C. ([deleted] chief [/deleted] [inserted] cadet [/inserted] flight commander), who takes control if the corporal is absent. Our P.T.I. – a corporal – has returned from sick leave - & he looks a nagging baa-lamb, guess we’ll see him tomorrow. We have also a Law test in the work we’ve covered – that stuff wants some stomaching.
The time is beginning to slip by though, & our leave approaches, what a day that will be. This week-end we’ve spent a good deal of time over on the putting green – but owing to a high wind – no good scores were recorded. I guess Bob will be back from Glasgow soon, its getting late. Also Ron – he obtained a day pass to see his brother in the Navy just docked at Queensferry. I expect they’ll both come back cursing the all too short time – Had Maths results this week I got 93% only 1 failure in the flight.
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[underlined] Thursday. April 16th [/underlined]
I happen to be on fire-picket to-night, we only get it every tenth day, now that ‘D’ flight are here. The weather has been glorious lately, I guess it will be a fine spring, short summer, & long winter again. We are well up to schedule with our lectures, so most of our time this week, has been spent on P.T etc. The P.T.I. is a decent chap after all – Irish - & we’ve had some good times. Nearly every day we’ve been down to the beach and had exercises & games. We strip down to shorts & slippers and its grand to dive about at rugby touch in that sun.
On Wednesday we went on a 7 mile route march, it was a very warm day, & we certainly welcomed the 15 min break at the turning-point. The beer is pretty good around here, but I guess
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anything would have gone down nicely then. We must [inserted] be [/inserted] beginning to toughen up now though for we hardly felt any ill effects or aches & pains.
On Wednesday night we had a surprise, in the middle of the night the air raid siren was sounded. The alert only lasted for about half an hour and no events were recorded. We are now doing Morse on the Aldis Lamp & find it more difficult than the buzzer – though I guess it’s a case of becoming used to it.
We have been feeling pretty tired during the day-time lately, & frequently falling asleep. I was intending to have an early night to-night, but as we have our gas exam to-morrow, I suppose I should get cracking on swotting up my notes.
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[underlined] Monday April 20th [/underlined]
Have just started our fifth week here at the end of this week, we will be exactly half-way through our course, time certainly flies. Which reminds me its about time I got really down to swotting each time I look at the work it seems more. Now that our Anti-Gas exam is over we took it on Saturday we have resumed our Armaments, we’ve practically forgotten the little we knew of the Vickers. A pal of mine at 8 I.T.W. Newquay wrote & told me they have changed to the Browning about twice as much to learn, don’t know if we will. ‘D’ Flight take their maths exam on Wednesday they were given an extra weeks tuition being as they haven’t passed any exams yet.
We had a lousy piece of news on Friday, at least it was for us, Corp. Barry has got his third stripe & is being posted from
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here. He is on leave at present, I think he’s going to Brighton – what a bind for him – bags of bull, thought I guess it wont be as bad for him as it was for us. We’re sure raving to lose him a real white man. – I wonder what kind of a D.I. we’ll get in his place.
St. Andrews holds its Warship Week this week & it was officially opened on Saturday with processions of the three services & bands, mechanical stuff driven by the Poles. Then followed a galaxy of Home Guard, O.T.C. A.T.C. A.R.P. W.V.S. & every single thing imaginable right down to the tiny “Cubs” & “Brownies”. There were two good pipe bands there – really smart, the only hitch was their timing was a good deal faster than that of the Polish brass band, who have a very slow step & it rather complicated matters. everything went off very well though.
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We spent the usual lazy Sunday, except for in the morning when we had to be ready with gas capes rolled, steel helmets on & all in readiness for a gas alarm. Then we surged out onto [deleted] [indecipherable letters] [/deleted] the green opposite & hung around for 3/4 hour. Whether they think we will be warned in advance of a gas attack & be able to have our kit ready I don’t know.
Today we had a thrill when we were issued with our flying kit, I suppose we wouldn’t be natural if we didn’t. It packs out a kit-bag & there are still some items left out & it is valued at over £50, our battle-dress was also issued. Should we fail to pass our exams we will have to hand all the kit back, which won’t be so good. The stuffing in the Triple lining is certainly warmth-giving we were literally sweating, still maybe at 20,000 feet its none too warm.
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[underlined] Thursday April 23rd. [/underlined]
The weather seems to have taken a turn for the worse today, and we have been pessimistically assured by local inhabitants that although St. Andrews is reknown [sic] for its bracing weather, it is by no means fine weather, so we are unfolding our ground sheets in readiness. The other day after rugger touch on the sands, we were allowed in the sea to wash our feet, & a few hardy chaps took the plunge. They assured us it wasn’t too bad, but it reminded me of the Arctic too much so I guess I’ll bide awhile before taking the first dip of the year.
On Tuesday it was Bill’s 21st birthday but as he had visited the dentist that day & had 3 teeth removed he didn’t feel up to a celebration so we postponed it until to-night. For three nights running now there have been clashes between C & D flights, & good old-fashioned pillow fights & raids.
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They are not so gentle as one reads of in School Stories, & last night, 2 of our fellows had teeth knocked out, one his mouth split, & one K.O’d. Still its great fun – we nearly had it on Wednesday though – somebody had what they considered a brain-wave & got 3 stirrup pumps in action. The Orderly Officer came up & caught us amidst a mass of water, & we should all have been charged by the Sqdn Ldr next day, but it was dropped.
They have made a rule that everyone must play some game on games afternoons – as a good few were always giving it a miss. On Tuesday they had some photographers from the Picture Post here to take some photos of the R.A.F. at work and play. We have almost finished our Hygiene, & the Law & are being tested in them next week. 7 failed Anti-“Gas but they resat & then passed”, for a change I wasn’t one of them.
[underlined] Sunday April 26th. [/underlined]
Our course is precisely half over & we have now reached the end of the fifth week & have another five weeks to go, as the last week consists of exams, we have four weeks of studying left. Bob has been happy, for his girl friend is on leave from the W.R.N.S. & came down here to spend 3 days, I think she returns to-morrow, he’ll be down in the dumps alright then. Different flights are constantly arriving here & we are getting quite senior, in fact we are the senior flight in 3 Squadron. ‘B’ flight arrived the other week & comprise of 1 W/O 4 sergeants 9 corporals 18 L.A.C’s, & A.C.1’s with a few A.C.2’s scattered around.
We celebrated Bill’s 21st birthday on Friday night, at the Conservative Club, & got slightly merry. That isn’t a bad club, but there’s an excellent
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club, called the “60” club, one of the most comfortable places I’ve been in. They had a ball at the Town Hall to close Warships Week – admission 10/- needless to say there was a scarcity of R.A.F. – I don’t know how much St. Andrews achieved I think they reached the mark though.
I had the misfortune of being on guard last night, and the orderly officer a canny swine, must have found out that between 7.30 & 9.30 some of the fire-pickets were always over at the N.A.A.F.I. Anyway he turned us out at 8 p.m. & two fire-picket fellows were missing – needless to say they’re on a charge, unless they can produce a perfect excuse.
On Monday we are having a test in Hygiene, & on Tuesday a test in Law, I don’t see the point of learning that stuff, but the powers that be have decreed it, and who are we to argue with such.
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[underlined] Wednesday April 29th. [/underlined]
The end of the month is on us, & in 2 days time we’ll be saying, “This month we take our exams”, as we begin to realise that we have only 3 weeks left to get moving with our studying, bags of panic are visible. We had our Hygiene test, but the Flt. Comdr put the Law test off – luckily for us as we know sweet fairy ann on that subject – I guess our sins will find us out.
For the Games afternoon yesterday as there wasn’t much on the programme Bill & I decided to walk 6 miles to the aerodrome of L –. We were lucky to get a lift right into the station & spent a pleasant afternoon looking over the kites & standing by watching the patrols take off. Boy! would I like to be on ops’ right now. Especially now our bomber boys are giving the Hun such a pasting at
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Rostock and Lubeck.
I had a letter from my pal at home today, & he’s finally received his papers for the Navy which was always what he wanted. I guess he’s as bucked as I was when I got into the R.A.F. The lucky beggar won’t have to go through all the bull-shine & exams like us though. Still I expect all that comes under our disciplinary course - & makes one obey orders without question which is very necessary in this game.
We are wondering if we can reserve some compartments on the London Express when we go home. As there are a good few of us travelling on it & we dont [sic] fancy a 10 hour stand. There has been a colossal wind blowing here lately & it makes Aldis Lamp reading a hell of a job as our eyes start swimming – I’m not so hot on that lamp. We have only had one period of P.T, & a cross-country run was cancelled so we’re not grumbling.
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[underlined] Sunday May 3rd. [/underlined]
Usual routine has brought another week to an end, time certainly is passing swiftly. This week, the Wing Commander began interviewing our flight with regard to recommending them for commissions. At an I.T.W. the Flight Commander, the Squadron Leader, & Wing Comdr. all make separate decisions whether a cadet is fit for a commission or not. My interview with the Wing Comdr. may come off to-morrow.
The weather is still glorious here, & after 2 hours P.T. & games on the beach, Friday Morning, some of us took the first dip of the year. I enjoyed that swim, although it was very cold. At present the bottom of the open-air swimming bath is being scraped, so we cannot swim in that, although I prefer that to the sea. It is sea-water & is filled every tide. But there are no waves one can get a decent swim in.
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‘D’ Flight received their maths results this week and it shook them rather. Eleven of them came a cropper, and out of those only four have been granted a second try. Two of the failures are remustering W.O.P./A.C.s and two are taking straight A.G’s. The remaining three had such a low percentage in the exam that they have been taken off flying training altogether.
The usual flight photograph was taken at the beginning of the week, but owing to the extremely strong sunlight it didn’t turn out too well, still we’ve had it. Alan managed to get an introduction to a [deleted] [indecipherable letters] [/deleted] flying officer on Beauforts at L-. Today he was taken up for 1 3/4 hours on torpedo dropping exercises, and he returned here full of it – boy! is he lucky. Owing to the fact that they are doing ‘ops’ most of the time it looks as though we will be unable to have a ‘flip’ – which is a disappointment to us.
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[underlined] Wednesday May 6th [/underlined]
Although we were assured by our Flt/Comdr that this would be a very stiff week and we would have lots of studying so far it has been the easiest week of our course. A lot of time-wasting subjects have been inserted even though we are only 3 weeks from our exams. Today we were supposed to go clay pigeon shooting & accordingly they sent 10 at a time down, but all they got was one hours instruction. Then they had a squadron photograph taken right in front of the club house, with a terrific wind blowing sand across the exposed links. So I guess half of the people in it will come out with closed eyes & distorted faces. One flight is taking there [sic] exams this week & go on leave Friday, so we have to have our Navigation in a temporary class-room which isn’t so hot.
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On Monday we had an Aldis lamp test and partly owing to climatic conditions, & partly myself I hardly received any of it. I have heard it ‘pukka gen’ that one really has to pass this exam & there is no wangling through – so I’m panicking alright. For a failure means not getting ones LAC & waiting here until we pass – which at this rate seems about Xmas. The other evening we had some boxing bouts, & my opponent had done a fair amount of it in peace-time. Still I acquitted myself fairly well, he split my lip, & I split his, & made his nose swell, so it was nice and friendly. As a minor distraction I have been inducing the hairs upon my upper lip to form into a moustache lately, but the results don’t seem too promising. I should have been on fire-picket tonight, but Mac asked me to change & go on tomorrow, as there was a lot of coal for them to shovel I willingly agreed.
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[underlined] Monday May 11th [/underlined]
Another entry into this rapidly growing diary of mine, and another week has slipped swiftly past. The room was half empty last week-end as Ron had a week-end pass to go and see his brother at Queensferry, and Bill and Bob slipped home for the week-end. Today we heard the far from pleasant news that our baa-lamb of a flight-sergt. who takes squadron parade, had been promoted to Station W.O. This shook us, & we’ll certainly have to watch our step. He sports the shoulder-title CANADA, although he may have seen those shores for about a week, certainly no more by his lack of accent, his disposition. Which reminds me it was our turn to be inspected by the Squadron-Leader to-day & after he had passed us, I nearly fainted when somebody pointed out, I’d omitted to wipe the dried polish off my buckle.
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Today we were given the most staggering piece of news & most momentous for us, we’ve ever received. The Sqdn. Ldr. told us all that the Air Command had decided that a second pilot in a bomber was a waste of a man as he was seldom used. He is to be withdrawn & a specialised man in bombing replaces him. He is the Air Bomber & in future Observers will only do Navigating & be Navigators. Should a pilot be wounded the crew are to fly it home on the automatic Pilot & then bale out at the base, & leave the kite to crash. It seems a fine waste of a £40,000 bomber to me. This of course we were told cuts the pilots required down to about half, & as they will have all those in reserve from the bombers, it will be a great chance if we even get a pilot – in fact we might never get a chance to fly at a Grading School – this certainly [indecipherable word] us I can
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tell the world.
Should the pilot be wounded & is a stretcher case – Lord knows what they’ll do for ‘em, they can’t let them crash. Why the obvious solution to train second pilots as air-bombers as well didn’t strike them I don’t know. For if he isn’t needed as a pilot as they say, well he carries his bombing duties out as they want. Then should the pilot be hit which is by no means uncommon, he is at hand to bring the aircraft back safely as the Air Bombers course is only a 60 week one it wouldn’t be much to add on a pilots course. Still I guess the powers that be have decreed it - & it is so. It isn’t our place to criticise knowing nothing about it really, but we can’t help but imagine the scheme is devised by some-one behind a big desk at the AM. However I’m praying to the Lord I will still make a pilot – but it seems awfully remote now.
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[underlined] Sunday May 17th [/underlined]
Haven’t been able to make an entry in this diary at all in the week, owing to hectic work. We only had two easy breaks, one on Wednesday when we went clay pigeon shooting, I just struggled along with an average score. Then on Friday we went on the range with .303’s, I had better luck then & managed to get 108 points out of a possible 125. My last card was the best – 10 rounds with no support – I got 8 bulbs & 2 inners. We have just about finished our Navigation syllabus, & will be able to get in a weeks revision before the big event. There is only a weeks practice on the Aldis Lamp left & we still aren’t able to pass the tests. It’s always the way on this course, bags of exams and bags of panic before them all. Still with luck we’ll see those ‘props’ yet.
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Our Flight Commander has started a childish sceme [sic] of points for the tidiness of rooms. The rooms are already smart & in order as this is compulsory, but he knocks off points for silly little things, a room which is obviously bad, often has its faults missed, & he has a most erratic system of points. It amuses us rather than irritates. Apart from these systems however, he is a really decent chap, and would do anything for us.
I was employed digging the garden the other night for speaking in the ranks. The chap with me, had had a good share of ‘jankers’ here, & was often in trouble. This time it proved his last punishment here. For he had 14 days for playing cards in church – quite a rip. Anyway as well as this he has been taken off the flying course. So to use the familiar term – “He’s had it”.
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[underlined] Wednesday May 20th [/underlined]
Today marked the beginning of the last week of intensive studying. Our flight-commander has drawn up a chart of our work throughout the week & we are getting lots of general study periods – and we need them. Lately we have had a great number of lamp receiving periods & although I am not able to pass tests I am getting a bit better. Alan was on fire-picket Tuesday, & was preparing to get ready for parade, when he had a great surprise. The corporal shouted for him & when he went down he found his brother standing there. He is a Spitfire pilot at present on delivery, & he brought a Spit. up to the nearby ‘drome and dropped in to see Alan, & stayed the night at a hotel. Alan promptly got his fire-picket changed and went out for the evening with him. They had a fine time.
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I visited the cinema on Saturday for the first time since I’ve been here, it was a neat little place. The film was “Rebecca” very old, but very good, & as I had missed it before, I took this opportunity of seeing it. Preparations are going ahead for the flight supper, next Monday, it should be pretty good. It’s a party & carousal combined with the Flt/Cmdr & Sqdn Ldr. there – but they’re both good sports. They have managed to get the radio going now & we are able to catch up with the swing music before proceeding on leave. I have arranged with Mary to book seats at two shows, so I should enjoy my leave, I only hope the weather remains fine. We have filled in the forms for our railway warrants, gee! if only we didn’t have to take all these exams before we went it would be heaven. Still such is life in the RAF.
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[underlined] Sunday May 23rd. [/underlined]
Our last clear week is over, & now we commence the fateful week of examinations, oh! well sink or swim we go on leave Friday. I think we should do alright, although we are not excellent at the subjects, still with God’s Help we’ll get through them A.1. We have the Aldis Receiving exam Monday, so it’s a bit of a baa-lamb to start off with, then come the rest of our Signals exams on the next two days. On Wednesday we have Armaments, then Thursday is a big day with Aircraft Rec. Law & Hygiene, this is a big sweep & leaves only Navigation on Friday. That is the one that is worrying me most.
It’s a funny thing we have done 9 weeks of binding for these and in one swift rush they will be all over and done with, anyway I intend to forget the word
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examination when I’m home and settle down & have a really good time. I’m glad Mary has managed to get her summer hols. at the same time. If we get embarkation leave after Grading School, that supposing with the help of the Lord we fly, I’m hoping she will be able to get more time off then, still its miles & miles ahead.
They are talking about what times the trains are from St. Andrews Friday, as they are only letting 10 travel on each train, to relieve congestion. This seems tripe to me for we can all come back together that makes no difference, & anyway there are only 53 in the flight & not all are going the same way. I hope that us who are travelling to London are able to get on a train early enough, to enable us to start queuing in Edinburgh to catch the [deleted] E [/deleted] London Express.
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[underlined] Friday May 29th [/underlined]
The great day has arrived at last, all the exams are over, though not forgotten, and in a few hours, we will all be proceeding on our various journeys, but each to the same place – home. It seems a long while to go 4 months without leave, & I guess it is really. I was right in the assumption that once the exams had commenced, time would fly by and it most certainly did. Last Sunday Ron took some snaps of us & of view-points around here, he’s just collected them and they came out ever so well.
This morning has been one mad rush, we were up early, and it would fall to my luck to have my turn to clean the wash-bowel, so I had to hurry alright. Promptly at 8.30 we were sitting in the Navigation rooms and we
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commenced the Navigation paper. It was a fairly stiff one, the stiffest we’ve seen for a while, but I think I’ve got through, I hope we all have. We dived in the Y.M.C.A. for the usual cup of tea, and paraded at 11 A.M. for pay, we drew a fortnights, being the week of leave, then we were paid £1 for ration money. After that we were given our passes & railway tickets, and there was nothing more to do but wait for our train, so here I am hanging around until 4.5 when we say goodbye to Scotland for a brief while.
I’m still praying that the weather will break as this doesn’t seem any too cheerful, still who knows it may turn out fine. I can see way across the valley a puff of smoke leaving Leuchars so it must be our train, & I must fly, next time I open this our treasured leave will be over.
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[underlined] Monday June 8th. [/underlined]
Back in harness once more, and naturally feeling ever so sorry that its over, especially as Mary has another week’s holiday & will have to spend it by herself. I had a grand time & marvel of marvels the weather broke at the beginning and we even had a heat wave, I never expected that, it looks like my prayers were answered alright. The journey to London was uneventful, we arrived Kings X – 8.10, an hour late, we had [deleted] a [/deleted] seats & that was worth queuing for. Returning to Edinburgh we arrived 40 mins late for no apparent reason, seeing that it was perfect weather, & we were on time up to Berwick where we stopped on a deserted part of the line for a quarter of an hour. The train from Leuchars should have gone
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at 8.35 P.M. but it waited for us, and we caught the last bus from Leuchars and arrived here at 11.35. We were dead tired, & hungry so after satisfying that need we made our beds & turned in.
This morning found reveille at 6.15 again, but we were so tired that we were unable to get up. Later I got up & started to shave (we all missed breakfast) when I was horrified to hear “On Parade” shouted, Bob & Bill dashed around & I rushed my shave & how I got down in time I don’t know. Then to put the tin hat on it, the Flt/Comdr. inspected us, just back from leave & not unpacked or anything, I thought that a bit thick. As my buttons weren’t cleaned I was put on fatigues tonight, still we can’t grumble. I’m only glad there wasn’t a room inspection right
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away, as my bed wasn’t made, and all my shaving kit was lying around.
We weren’t to be spared though for the Wing/Comdr. decided to have a room inspection so everyone had to fly to unpack & sort things out & get the general layout ready. Then we were paraded for the things we have been waiting for the exam results. Only 3 failed Navigation, one of them unfortunately being Ron Cooling in our room, they are going before the Sqdn/Ldr. tomorrow to see if they can have a second chance, I hope they get it. My marks were Navigation 80% Buzzer Sending 100% Buzzer Receiver 97% Lamp Sending 90% Lamp Receiving 97% Aircraft Recognition 100% Law 87% Hygiene 88% Armaments 90%. Then Anti-Gas & Maths results were added mine were 66% & 93% respectively, this gave me a total percentage of 89 9/11%. We should be posted as L.A.C.’s soon & then if we are lucky our prayers may be granted & we really might learn to fly.
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[underlined] Thursday June 11th [/underlined]
It is now a fully fledged Leading Aircraftsman who is writing this. Yes, our posting in D.R.O’s came through & we were issued with our ‘props’ & spent most of our games afternoon Tuesday engaged in sewing them on. As at Brighton they qualified us for expert house-keepers so we will be in the expert gardeners class when we leave here. Most of our time for there is not much for us to do is spent in knocking the garden into shape. I must confess that I haven’t put much time in, but I don’t see the sense in it. We are just doing anything that may enter our Flt/Comdr’s head, we had a route march of 8 miles on Wednesday at a pace of 130 per minute & to make an impression upon our return into the town he quickened the pace to 184.
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The only subjects we still take [deleted] is [/deleted] are Navigation, Signals & Armaments. At Navigation the course officially is “Revision”, but we have been bound rigid with lectures on the stars, gee! the flight lieutenant is a bit of a dope but he sure is a wizard astronomer. At signals we have done some Aldis receiving, and have learned a little of the Browning gun at Armaments.
We [deleted] h [/deleted] will have a lot of guards & fire-pickets to do when ‘D’ flight go on [deleted] g [/deleted] leave this Friday I guess. I was on fire-picket Tuesday night but we chanced it & slept up in our rooms. On Wednesday our room managed to get down for breakfast for the first time. On Tuesday we were up at 7.20. so I guess the effects of our leave are wearing off & were [sic] falling into the easy routine again, - gee did I say easy then I’ve developed the old soldier style already.
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[underlined] Sunday June 14th [/underlined]
So ends our first week back here, & it has drawn itself out so much it seemed like a month. The weather has been lousy, cold & rain & I’ve developed a beauty of a cold, having to muck around in the garden. The other day we had to fill in a pro forma stating our order of choice as to which other categories of air-crew we wished to remuster to if we failed as pilots. It appears we go on a Grading Course to Perth or Carlisle where we should go solo. We then get 7 days leave and are sent to an ACDC (Air Crew Distribution Centre) where we are told whether we are to become pilots or not. Somehow I’m afraid that there isn’t much chance of ever wearing a pair of wings, but I’m praying to the Lord that I might be one of the lucky few to get through.
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‘D’ flight have gone on leave & we watched them go with envious eyes. On Friday night special posting came through & 12 of our flight were on it, in a way I’m glad I wasn’t for they went straight away for 12 days embarkation leave yesterday, & the posting is supposed to be to Rhodesia. Bill, Bob, & Alan were on it, & Ron is being re-flighted & given another chance at Navigation (with the other 2 chaps that didn’t pass) so that leaves Carl & myself the only ones left out of our room. The eternal process of splitting up of friends always occurs in the R.A.F. I marvel how the chaps in the “Thin Blue Line” so luckily managed to stay together all the time.
Yesterday we had a most interesting 2 hours at navigation, it was on a machine called the
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Map Tutor. We were given a strip of cardboard with a section of countryside on it 30 miles long and 3 miles wide. We then saw it slowly slipping by on this machine painted on a moving roll of linen & we gazed through a glass panel & it gave exactly the same effect of looking out of an aircraft. Various exercises were given us to carry out such as E.T.A’s fixes etc, they even put a sheet of cotton wool over the glass with a few holes in it to give a cloud effect. It was an interesting machine, & beneficial too.
They have cut out the fire pickets & are having six on guard so that means we do just 2 hours each, no 2 on & 4 off etc. thank the Lord. – Today is Allied Nations Day & a procession has just passed similar to that of the Savings Week, the R.A.F. cadets swinging along in it with bags of ‘bull’.
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[underlined] Tuesday June 16th. [/underlined]
It has come at last, out of the blue a posting came. 9 of the remainder of the now depleted flight are going to Perth Grading School. While 19 more of us, including myself, “Knocker” Davies & most of the boys are going to Carlisle. So once again we are crossing the border though only just. It is No 15 E.F.T.S. I wonder what life is like there, we’ve heard that life is a lot easier than anything we have struck yet.
These last two days have been fairly easy ones for us with nothing to do. Five of us were put on to sand shifting for no apparent reason, & then at our break-time we weren’t allowed to
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go out. So we climbed up the face of the building in at a window & got out that way. Of course there was a stink about it & we were on fatigues all the afternoon.
In some ways I shall be sorry to leave St. Andrews for it is a nice place, yet I am feeling rather cheesed after 3 months here. On Sunday just as I entered church a voice behind me, called my name & turning round I saw one of the chaps from the office. I knew he was in the R.A.F. I never dreamt he would come to St. Andrews, it seems out of touch with everywhere so, To cap it all who should I bump into in the Y.M.C.A. but Ken Wyatt. He had been at Brighton ever since
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we left there. He was in ‘dock’ with pneumonia & had a bit of a hard time, then he went home for 14 days sick leave. His face was well sun burnt & he [deleted] ac [/deleted] certainly looked the picture of health, it’s a shame that he is 10 weeks behind in his course though, through the illness. Naturally he was all athirst for the gen regarding his course & his exams, so we gave him some & told him it wasn’t a quarter as bad as fellows made out.
Ron Cooling & the other two who are being re-flighted expect to go Thursday, and are pretty cheesed about it. I guess I would be too, being in their position, fancy having to face another 10 weeks up here, Ron has also been told by the Signals
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master (who always was a binder) that he will have to take his Signals [deleted] Couse [/deleted] Course again, for he failed on Aldis Receiving.
This morning we received our back pay for our ‘props’ & drew the magnificient [sic] sum of £5, quite a small fortune for us. In the afternoon we had to tog up in our best blue, for an inspection & farewell address by the Wing Commander. Tons of bull & he only dashed round to make sure our ‘props’ were sewn on. A flight of Poles were also there & it was interesting to watch them being inspected. They stand at ease until the inspecting officer reaches the man next to them, then they snap rigidly to attention, wait till the officer looks at them & then passes to the next chap, then they
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stand how they like once more.
The squadron leader came over in the evening & shook hands with all of us & wished us “Good Luck.” He is a real decent chap one of the best, if not the best officer I’ve ever met. We certainly were lucky to be in 3 squadron for our sojourn here. Our flight comdr. too gave us each a farewell chat & some useful tips & an invitation to look him up at any time at his home. It’s a pity we cant keep the same instructors all through our training – still there it is.
Well, time is flowing by and I must turn in for the last time here, & say goodbye to all the ground training & look forward to the real stuff. So with thoughts of ‘kites’ ‘solos’ ‘wings’ & various other magical dreams I say Good-Night.
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David Geach, “Book 1, Commencing My Life in the R.A.F. up till the End of I.T.W.,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed April 23, 2024,

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