1945

I little knew then that I was going to spend a lot of time in the back seat of a Harvard while Indian pupils in front seat performed all sorts of manoeuvres in their attempts to carry out rolling, quarter and other attacks, not to mention dive-bombing. By March 1945 I was going to be posted from the Squadron to take charge of the Air Firing Flight at 151 Indian Operational Training Unit at Peshawar.

Number 1 Indian Squadron, flying American-built Vultee Vengeance dive bombers, were also at Amarda Road. One day I was watching a Vengeance coming into land. It was holding off far too high. When it lost flying speed, instead of being just inches above the runway for a gentle touch-down, it thumped down very heavily and bounced back into the air. The pilot gave it a burst of throttle and then thumped down heavily again - and then again - before remaining on the runway. Fortunately, it was a long runway. I hesitated to think what all this had done to the undercarriage.

The Vengeance taxied past and I saw the beaming face of the pilot, who didn't seem a bit disconcerted.

'What a landing!' I said to a Squadron Leader who was standing next to me. 'It certainly was,' he said. 'That was Flying Officer Sen. It's the best landing I've ever seen him make!'

The Indian Air Force, at that time, was to some degree a political force rather than a top fighting force. The fact that Indians were volunteering to fly and fight with us meant a lot. As a result, pilots who were not up to scratch were not 'washed out' (demoted or grounded) but were sent on another training course round.

One of the first pupils I met at Peshawar was none other than Flying Officer Sen!

I completed the Amarda Road course by 6 December 1944 having passed in Combat Flying Ability, Combat Marksmanship Ground Marksmanship, Probable Ability as an Instructor, Theory and Practical, qualifying as an instructor and marksman. By 13 December I was back with the Squadron, finding that they had moved - not far - from Palel to an airstrip called Sapam, still in the Imphal Valley, and on the following day was escorting a VIP in an L5 light aircraft from a jungle airstrip back to the Imphal Valley.

A pleasing aspect: Doug Gillon, a Canadian who was with me at Grangemouth and who had temporarily been posted from the Squadron, was back again. He was a good chap and a good pilot - and became my Number 2. He is in the Grangemouth group photograph (second left, front row, circa May 1943 and on two photographs taken when I arrived at Worii, India, in October 1943)

While mentioning the Grangemouth group pic, also on it are 155 pilots Canadian George Brown, standing on my left (killed in March 1944), and Andy Tough, from Aberdeen, third from right, front row, (who emigrated to Canada after the war and became a solicitor in Winnipeg.)

Towards the end of 1944 and into early 1945 the Japs were on the defensive, retreating farther into Burmese jungle, chased by the 14th Army. Our role was to support them by intensively searching for and destroying Jap communications and transport.

This was, of course, in addition to our normal fighter patrols and supply-dropping Dakota escorts. We also found ourselves frequently escorting VIPs on their journeys in and out of Burma, where they were concerned with keeping in touch with forward Army posts and the progress of Chindit operations deep in the jungle, sometimes behind Jap lines.

As the 14th Army moved more into Burma, so we had also to move further forward. I was with a detachment from the Squadron which, on 16 December, flew over the mountainous Chin Hills into the notorious Burmese Kabaw Valley, landing at a newly constructed airstrip called Tamu. The Kabaw Valley was known as Death Valley, because of its fame for ferocious mosquitoes. Much to our surprise, it didn't seem too bad. From there we were able to provide escorts over much longer distances than from the Imphal Valley.

We didn't know it at the time, but Lt General Sir William Slim (Bill to all) was planning to deceive the Japs into thinking that his main assault was to be across bridgeheads which he intended to throw across the Irrawaddy river near Mandalay. In fact, it was to be much farther south, into the central Burma plain.

A key point in the 14th Army's advance was at Kalewa, on the Chindwin river, where a 1,154-foot (a record length) Bailey Bridge had been specially built (in Stockport!) for the crossing. So worried were our top brass about the Japs destroying the bridge that it was protected by barrage balloons - the only ones I ever saw in Burma - and we had to maintain constant fighter patrols around it. At one time we were even asked to patrol the bridge by night and this was distinctly difficult, especially during monsoon conditions. There was also the fact that Spitfires were not designed for this kind of work. At night, flames from the exhausts mounted on both sides of the engine, just in front of the pilot, were dazzling. The flames were not visible during the day.

All our aircraft, except for the fighter patrols had been ordered to keep away from the bridge. This gave me a very tricky decision to make when, while patrolling, I looked down to see an RAF Dakota flying low up the river towards the bridge. It should not have been there so I tried to contact him on the radio to tell him to move away but failed to get any answer. Then I had a horrible thought - what if the Japs had captured a Dakota, put bombs on board and were going to lob them out at the bridge? Then I had another possibly even more terrible thought. I knew the Japs had a bomber aircraft - we called it a Sally - which was very similar to the Dakota. What if they had painted it to look like an RAF Dakota?

I had a word with my Number 2. We agreed we couldn't take any chance of the Japs destroying the bridge. I picked a spot on the river bank and said: 'If he passes that point, we go down and clobber him.'

Gunsights on 'fire' we headed downwards. Whether he suddenly remembered the area was prohibited or whether his memory was jolted by seeing two Spitfires diving towards him I don't know - but, thank goodness, he turned off and headed away.

Sadly, when I returned to the Squadron from the Amarda Road course I learned that Flying Officer Clive 'Smoky' Entwistle, had been killed by anti-aircraft fire at Yeu, a Burma railhead and Jap stronghold. Think the portrait photograph (right) must have been taken shortly after his arrival in India. He is also in a couple of 'snapshot' photographs on earlier pages, just after I joined 155 Squadron. He is standing in a jeep, waving his kukri about, and smoking his pipe - hence 'Smoky' - while sitting next to 'Babe' Hunter.

Knowing I was friendly with 'Smoky' and that we both came from Lancashire - his home was in Southport - the CO asked me to write to his parents. That wasn't easy, but I did. Some time afterwards I received a letter from his mother, which is in the transparent envelope at the back of this album.

After demob and while visiting Southport with Beth I took a look at Southport's war memorial and was surprised that his name was not on it. I spoke to the Chairman of the Aircrew Association, Air Commodore Jack Broughton, and he took action to have Clive Entwistle's name included.

The rest of December was taken up with Dakota and VIP escort duties as well as escorting a Squadron of Hurricanes, adapted to carry bombs, to targets at Tabayin, Pyingaing (Pinkgin!) and Yeu, as well as regularly patrolling the Kalewa Bridge across the Chindwin.

On 27 December I went on a special long range reconnaissance flight - two hours and 40 minutes, a long time in a Spitfire - to the Pakkoku area. A Wing Commander Barry Sutton had turned up from somewhere to lead this patrol. I didn't know what it was about at the time except that I was told to keep an eye open for any Japanese troop movements. We didn't see any. Some time later I realised this was check on whether the Japs had cottoned on to the fact that General Slim was moving his troops far down south to attack there, instead of near Mandalay, which was mainly, although not entirely, a feint.

Later that day we left Tamu to re-join the rest of the Squadron at Sapam in the Imphal Valley. However, monsoon rains continued to pour down with the result that Sapam fairly rapidly turned into more of a swamp than an airstrip. For a while we didn't dare try to take off. The wheels would have dug in and turned the Spitfires on their noses. After a slightly drier spell of weather it was thought that it might be possible to take off - by using rather unusual techniques.

To get airborne after the shortest possible run a couple of airmen leaned over the tail to hold it down while, with brakes fully on, we opened the throttles practically to the limit. For good measure, we had the flaps half down. Then the airmen jumped out of the way and we started a take-off run.

Having the flaps half down meant that, hopefully, you could get airborne at a much slower airspeed than usual.

However, with Spitfires you could only have the flaps - long hinged 'spars' underneath the rear of the wings - either fully up or fully down. To solve this problem the CO had little triangular-shaped pieces of wood cut. You lowered the flaps and a couple of airmen put in the pieces of wood.

"Ent" - killed over Yeu Dec 1944

You then switched the flaps to the UP position - but because of these wedges the flaps only got halfway up.

This was fine in assisting the short-run take-off. You didn't want the flaps in this position, though, when you were airborne: it slowed you down. You had to gain height and then put the flaps down, the bits of wood - you hoped - fell out and you were back to normal flight.

Amazingly enough, it all worked and we flew off to Tullihall airstrip; not very far away.

Meantime, the Army was continuing its advance towards Mandalay - pushing the Japs back and getting farther and farther out of our flying range. A nearer airstrip was needed. The Japs had abandoned one at a place called Tabingaung but they inconsiderately blew up the runway before they left. The higher ups decided that, despite the fact that a row of tall trees was in the way, it might be possible for skilful pilots to land on and take off from the taxy track. We were told to move there, so the CO took one flight with him and they managed to get in, although, in the terminology of the time, it was a 'bit hairy.' Later, I wrote an article about this for the TEE EM, the RAF training manual. (See transparent envelope).

I got landed with the job of organising a group of 155 Squadron airmen to fly in Dakotas to the nearest fairly usable airstrip. As it so happened, one had been constructed at Yeu (the railhead we had raided many times and where 'Smoky' had been killed).

Having got most of the airmen under way I joined the last Dakota flight of the day, with the result that darkness was descending as we landed at Yeu, where West African transport troops were based. They had been driving earlier arrivals by truck along what was a sort of jungle road to Tabingaung. However, all activity seemed to have stopped by the time we arrived. I found one of their officers who said: 'We've packed in for the night.'

I convinced him that the men and equipment from my Dakota might be urgently required by the Squadron at Tabingaung, told him that I had a map, and that it was imperative we should get to Tabingaung immediately. He agreed to wake up a driver and get him to take us.

I imagine the driver was very tired and had been looking forward to a good night's sleep, but he was remarkably cheerful about it. We loaded up, climbed in and set off, with me trying make out the route on my map, which was designed more for flying over the area than following piffley roads. We bumped and jolted along and eventually arrived. I had wondered whether the Japs might have been giving hell to those already there and whether it would be a scene of great activity with damaged Spitfires being repaired etc. In fact, all was quiet and peaceful.

None the less, quite pleased that we had arrived I found Squadron Leader Krohn's tent. He was sound asleep. I shook his shoulder. 'We've managed to get here, sir', I said. 'Well, clear off again,' he said. Actually, he didn't quite say that but it was roughly similar.

On the following day. 17 January 1945, I sampled flying from Tabingaung. It wasn't easy taking off nor landing because we were using the narrow taxying track. The Japs had blown up the main strip, thinking that would put the whole thing out of action. The result was that the take-off run wasn't terribly long and was obstructed by tall trees at one end. Taking off meant using bags of power to clear the trees. Landing in the opposite direction meant coming over the trees at practically stalling point to touch down just beyond the trees in order to have enough runway to stop.

I was up, patrolling over the strip for two hours and 15 minutes before having a go at the tricky landing.

The next day was a strafe at the Jap fighter bases in and around Meiktila. The strips had been well bombed by Liberators. One of our flight commanders, Roy Brown, was hit by flak and killed. Later in the day I took part in another trip over their fighter bases at Schwebo and Budalin but the Jap fighters failed to appear.

I was then detailed to lead a flight escorting Supreme Commander Lord Louis Mountbatten, who was flying in beautiful silver DC3 - no camouflage - from Burma back to India. This wasn't easy because, not being able to fly as slowly as the DC3 we had to weave. Big clouds towered high and his aircraft would disappear into cloud going one way while we disappeared into another cloud, going in a different direction Then we came out of cloud and had to find him again.

We arrived over 221 Group headquarters at Kalemyo on the Chindwin River. I saw another flight of Spitfires who were taking over for the remainder of the escort, checked that they had him in sight and, having been airborne for two hours; landed at Kalemyo to refuel. I had scarcely stopped the engine when an airman panted up on the wing. 'Are you in charge of this flight?' he asked. 'Yes,' I said.

'Well, the Groupie wants to see you and he's hopping mad!' said the airman.

The Group Captain was Don Finlay, an Olympic hurdler. 'What's he mad about?' I wondered as I made my way to his tent. Then I had a horrible thought. Had Mountbatten been shot down and I had somehow missed it?

Finlay was indeed enraged. After demanding to know if I was from 155 Squadron he proceeded to give me a right dressing down. In between expletives he said things about 'carelessness, utter stupidity and dereliction of duty.' Finally, he said: 'Go back to your Squadron and tell that (expletive deleted) CO of yours that he hasn't submitted his mess returns for months.'

I knew That Finlay and our CO - Squadron Leader 'Bats' Krohn had been at loggerheads for years but this seemed an over-reaction by miles! I flew back to Tabingaung. finding landing even more difficult in the dusk light.

The CO didn’t seem too perturbed about Finlay's comments.

On the 21st there were rumours of Jap soldiers in our vicinity and Jock Dalrymple, supposed to be our Defence Officer, was asked for his defence policy. That stumped him! Among my mail: a letter from the Press Club enclosing £1. Nice of them.

On 22 January I went up with Brookie, now my number 2, to carry out GCI (Ground Control) calibration flights, which meant flying at specific heights and speeds so that the chaps on the ground could sort out their instruments, radar screens, and readings. This took us up to 20,000 feet.

Radar wasn't always a tremendous help in Burma because reflections from the hills. Hills? As I've mentioned before they went up to 8-9,000 feet! However, it worked better around where we now were, over the Burmese plains.

When the GCI experts told they had completed their work I thought a few aerobatics were worth trying so, after briefing Brookie about this, I did a loop, followed by an upward roll. He stayed with me very well. This was great to see because he had started out as a bomber pilot, being transferred to fighters because his legs were too short to be able to make full use of the bomber rudder pedals. Spitfires were so designed that they could cope with small and tall pilots, there being plenty of adjustment on the seat and the rudder pedals.

During a later patrol far past the Irrawaddy I saw huge fires in Japanese territory, presumably from bombing raids.

On the next day we heard that our CO, 'Bats' Krohn, had been awarded the DFC, so there was a bit of a party that night, with Indian gin, lime and water proving potent mix.

More patrols and strafes followed, ranging far out over Japanese-held territory, including Shwebo, a Jap fighter base, but with no aerial activity. There was also an escort to a VIP flying out of a small clearing in an L5, a little American aircraft capable of short take off and landings but difficult to stay with because of its low speed, and a silver DC3 going to 221 Group HQ at Kalewa on the Chindwin (Mountbatten again?) There were occasional 'bogey' (enemy aircraft) reports from ground control - probably fast, high-flying Jap Dinah reconnaissance aircraft - but no interceptions.

The difficulty of trying to make gentle landing at Tabingaung, dropping over high trees at the end of what was laughingly called the runway, proved too much for a pilot named Unsworth. He banged his Spitfire down so hard that he sheered tail rivets. His protests that someone had probably previously damaged the tail were to no avail. He was posted elsewhere.

There was some activity on February 1 when, under a full moon making the night almost like day, the Japs raided our area. We were awakened by the ack ack opening up. Anti-personnel bombs were dropped, one landing on a 17 Squadron Spitfire and wrecking it. Just before dawn we raced to the strip but by then all was quiet again. It was back to patrols over base and a strafe at the Jap Shwebo fighter base. I had to abandon one trip because of leaking glycol (used for cooling the engine). I took off again in another Spitfire and rejoined the patrol.

On returning to Tabingaung I was told that John 'Nobby' Clarke had pranged on take-off, crashing just beyond the strip, hitting his face on the reflector sight, being rescued unconscious and in a very bad way. He was flown to a hospital at Imphal.

Many years later, probably around the early 1980s, his wife Megan got in touch with me. Think she had read one of the articles about 155 Squadron which I had written for FlyPast. She told me he was repatriated for treatment at the 'guinea pig' hospital at East Grinstead and had recovered so well that after the war he joined the Civil Service, learned Burmese and returned to Burma to help with reconstruction work. However, after a distinguished career, he had since died. We continued to exchange letters but responses ceased in 2002. I know she had not been well.

I had now completed just over a year with the Squadron and was, as they say, tour expired. The CO asked me and five others also tour expired whether we would like to go to the Middle East as instructors. Tired of the heat, causing skin prickly heat and sleepless nights, we said 'YES', hoping for a better climate. Another thing: I had had no leave since joining the Squadron. However, as far as I was concerned, it was not to be the Middle East. A request - more an order - also came in specifically saying that I should be posted to 151 Indian Operational Unit at Peshawar to take over the Air Firing Flight. This must have been caused by my fairly recent results from the Amarda Road Air Fighting Training Unit. 'Do you want to go there,' inquired the CO. 'No.' I said. Then a bit of a battle between the CO and the powers-that-be started about that.

During the early weeks of February we continued patrols over Japanese territory except for one trip in a Harvard to try to locate a missing RAF DC3. I found it in part of the jungle, crashed and burned out. On another day I led a flight on a 'rhubarb' (offensive) trip to try to find and polish off a reported Jap motor transport convoy but we never saw it. We settled for pooping away at Japanese HQ buildings.

On another rhubarb we spotted a train which had been camouflaged by the Japs. However, we had orders to leave trains alone. The Army seemed to think they would soon reach that area and acquire the train, presumably assuming the Japs would leave it undamaged.

Meanwhile the Army were battling ever nearer to Mandalay - preparatory to establishing a bridgehead across the Irrawaddy at a place called Myinmu. Another airstrip was prepared at Sadaung, nearer to Mandalay, and we moved to it on 11 February. We continued patrols over the area, over Jap airfields and over Myinmu where ground-to-air communications were established. We could be called from the ground and told, for instance, about a Jap sniper in a particular tree and asked 'Please get rid of him.' It was easy to oblige.

While patrolling over the bridgehead on February 20 I hit a vulture with my prop. It bent my prop tips but the aircraft could still fly, if a bit roughly, so I returned to Sadaung after 30 minutes. The vulture gave up flying, methinks.

When flying near the bridgehead I saw troops of the 14th Army marching near the West Bank of the Irrawaddy. I didn't envy them. If I thought our conditions were bad, theirs were far worse.

It was around this time that an official photographer. Harry Ashley - Harry the Horse - joined us. Think I mentioned earlier that one of his photographs was of me in a Spitfire preparing for take off, watched by an airman and by Chico, the Ghurka boy adopted by 17 Squadron airmen.

A few days later, Harry went up in the back seat of a Harvard to take pictures of Hurricanes laying a smoke screen over the Irrawaddy. A 17 Squadron Spitfire pilot seeing the Harvard low down near the Hurricanes assumed that because the Harvard, like the Jap fighters known as Oscars, had a radial engine, it was an Oscar about to attack the Hurricanes. He swooped down and fired, creasing the pilot who was rendered unconscious. The Harvard headed down. Harry had unfastened his straps to lean out to get better photographs, and was hanging out, helpless. Fortunately, the pilot came to in time to crash-land on a sandbank. They both survived.

Using only the light of Hurricane lamps, Harry also took shot of us in a tent. After VE Day it appeared in a UK publication with the caption 'The men who fight on'. It came to the attention of my father, who soon recognised the chap at the back on the right, smoking a pipe and holding a mug of 'char' as me. (Picture, right, plus Jap souvenir rupees and an Indian 1½ annas stamp).

Hurricanes were being used for a variety of ground attack forays as well as smoke laying. They were known as 'Hurri-bombers'. One, either hit by anti-aircraft fire or possibly by a Jap fighter crashed just outside our airstrip at Sadaung. When we got to the aircraft we found the pilot was dead. Then I discovered that I had known him. He was Flying Officer John Edwin Tibbetts, a fellow passenger to India on the 'Mooltan'. I had to take charge of the squad of men to bury him, temporarily, until other arrangements could be made.

Attempts were still afoot to get me to Peshawar. To try to fend them off, CO 'Bats' Krohn said he couldn't spare me because I was the Squadron historian. He offered them the name of another pilot. That cut no ice. They were determined to have me.

After a couple more patrols over Myinmu bridgehead I was told: 'That's that. You have to go to Peshawar.' Perhaps as well. The Japanese had built up their anti-aircraft guns at Myinmu. One of our pilots, 'Sticky' Glue was hit, caught fire and baled out, but was badly burned. Another, Ken Pask, was also hit. He baled out at 800 feet.

Ken emigrated to Canada after the war, became a naturalised Canadian, attended University, did very well in business and is now retired. We are still in touch. At the time of writing (January 2003) he had been appointed Air Crew Association Regional Secretary for Western Canada and is busily organising one of Canada's biggest aircrew re-unions. He and I and Albert Wittridge nearly met in Oxford some years ago but this fell through.

The last three Squadron entries in my log book are 'Patrol Myinmu bridgehead,' with the comment against against my last flight, on February 24 1945, 'Oscars airborne but, as usual, nowhere near us.'

I had completed 130 hours and 50 minutes on a total of 87 operations, and a total of 294 hours and 30 minutes with the Squadron, including non-operational flying. My total flying hours were 638 and 35 minutes. CO 'Bats' Krohn assessed my fighter pilot ability as Above Average.

I had hoped that fresh supplies of hooch would arrive so that I could host a party, but it didn't. Instead some of us joined in a 33 Corps Army HQ Cross Keys concert party, starring Frances Day. Returning to the Squadron I learned that the aircraft of another 155 pilot, named Willdey, had been hit by 25 bullets in a scrap. Luckily, none hit anything vital, including him.

The men who still fight.
The Japanese Government Half Rupee
The Japanese Government 1/4 Rupee
Indian 1 1/2 annas stamp

151 Indian OTU Peshawar

On February 27 1945 I finally left 155 Squadron, managing to hitch a lift on an American Curtiss Commando to Chittagong, where I overnighted before getting another lift in a Commando to Barrackpore, near Calcutta. I couldn't get into Aircrew House in Calcutta but managed to book in at the Grand Hotel, which wasn't very grand. I did meet New Zealander Sid Munro and my former number two, Brookie, at Firpo's restaurant and bar on Chowringhee. They had flown in from the Squadron to pick up supplies, mainly liquid. I caught up with the fact that the aircraft of a 155 pilot named Healey had been hit by flak and crashed south of the Myinmu bridgehead. Then I met another 155 pilot who said that Jap soldiers had raided Sadaung airstrip and stolen all the rations. On the next day, he said, they brought them back!

I waited around Calcutta until 6 March when at last I got a train ticket from the RAF travel expert and departed from Howrah Railway station, practically from one side of India to the other. After travelling in humid conditions through night and day, I arrived at Ambala late on 8 March to change for Peshawar. Had to try to sleep on a wooden seat at Ambala until the next day when I got another train at 1 pm. I reached Peshawar on 9 March. The journey had taken 5½ days!

Peshawar, on the borders of Afghanistan near the Khyber Pass, is now part of Pakistan.

151 Operational Training Unit was a pre-war RAF station. Brick-built, with excellent accommodation, an officers' mess and tennis courts, this was the height of luxury - although still without plumbing. We had to use what were popularly known as 'thunder boxes'. More about them later! I was alloted a bearer, Gulbar Khan, whose references dated back to 1930.

I was to become Officer-in-Charge of the Air Firing Flight, teaching Indian pilots about air fighting and dive-bombing.

The RAF were pleased, of course, to have Indian pilots fighting in the war against Japan, but politics entered into the question. There were no sergeants. All pupils were officers. There was no question of grounding poor pilots. After qualifying from the OTU they went to Indian Squadrons and, if not good enough but survivors, they went on more training courses.

On page 89, describing my training at Amarda Road Air Fighting Unit, there is a story about Flying Officer Sen. I saw him there making the worst landing, in an American-built Vultee Vengeance dive bomber, that I have ever seen. I was soon to see him again as one of my pupils at Peshawar - and fly with him! A number of my other pupils had similar awful flying standards. Not until after VJ day when it became apparent that India would soon become independent of Britain - and Pakistan was formed - were we told that we should get rid of the 'dead wood', the poor pilots. Plans were forming for independent Indian and Pakistan air forces.

My first flights at Peshawar were 'back seat' trips in Harvards, with instructors, to get used to flying the aircraft from there and lining up on other aircraft and the dive-bombing target while peering through a long telescope-like sight.

The pupils flew in the front seat, using a normal and easier reflector sight.

On 13 March I had the pleasure of taking up Army type, Lieutenant Hollas on a Tactical Reconaissance flight - including a few aerobatics, just for fun - before sampling a couple of flights with my first pupils, Pilot Officer Chitnis and Pilot Officer Singh, on range and deflection shooting camera gun exercises.

From then until the end of the month it was almost back seat every time, carrying out quarter attacks on other Harvards, rolling attacks and firing at drogue targets, apart from an air test on a Hurricane and just over an hour sampling solo Harvard night flight, with a brilliant moon making everything almost as light as day. The coolness of the night meant that there were no bumps up and down from rising hot air so this and the clear view made it a really enjoyable night flight.

During the following March days I flew with 20 pupils, noting in my diary that they varied from 'hopeful' to 'hopeless'. They had wonderful names such as Gulerya, Goday, Kathju, Euleaya and even Edwards!

During the month I joined the Peshawar Club which had a lovely swimming pool complete with high diving boards and a splendid snooker table.

Relaxing at the Club was very pleasant. However, I was brought down a peg or two on Saturday 24 March, by being ordered by the Groupie to take morning parade. I made a real hash of it, with one squad marching diagonally and causing chaos - without my having any idea how to sort matters out.

PHOTOGRAPHS The top pic shows a three-plane Harvard Vic formation. The small photograph below, taken in the Flight office, shows one of my instructing team (fairly sure he was Flying Officer McDonald) completing the daily log. He was certainly a Scot and, if my memory serves me correctly, from Alloa, where I baled out in 1943.

The rather torn picture is of me enjoying a rare flight from Peshawar over the Punjab in Mark Eight Spitfire.

The bottom photograph, taken by another Peshawar pilot from a photo-reconaissance Spitfire, shows me piloting a Mark Fourteen Spitfire, again over Punjab scenery. Visible differences from the Mark VIII: the canopy hood (giving better visibility behind), and the longer nose, needed to house the immensely powerful Griffon engine, which had replaced the Merlin. The Mark XIV also had a larger tail fin and rudder.

On the ground, another visible difference was the huge five-bladed propeller, needed to absorb and use the power of the Griffon engine.

Three-plane Harvard Vic formation
Flying Officer McDonald(?) in the Flight Office   Me enjoying a rare flight from Peshawar over the Punjab in a Mark Eight Spitfire
Me piloting a Mark Fourteen Spitfire again over Punjab scenery

The technique needed for take off in the Mark 14 was vastly different to the Mark 8. The propeller rotated in the opposite direction which meant that as take off speed built up the aircraft started to swing to the right instead of the left so you had to be ready to put on left rudder to keep straight. Also, the power was such that the left wing dipped, so you had to use the control column to keep the wing up and level. For good measure, you had to be careful not to put the nose too far forward in case the huge five-bladed propeller started chewing up the runway. Get all these things right and you became airborne, at which point the aircraft began to behave and to build up speed very quickly. In the air it was joy to fly.

Thought it might be worth putting in something about the different Marks of Spitfire which I flew. They all kept basically to R J Mitchell's design principles, although becoming more powerful, faster and usually better armed with each development so most people (including the Germans and perhaps the Japs during the war years) have a job knowing which is which.

The Mark I and Mark II versions which I flew at Grangemouth Operational Training Unit had a maximum speed of 361 mph and could reach a height of 34,500 feet.

The Mark VIII Spitfire with which 155 Squadron was equipped had a maximum speed of 408 mph and could reach 43,000 (plus!) feet. I had one up to 44,000 feet.

The Mark V Spitfire was the type I flew when attending, with the Squadron, an instructors' course in India about air fighting. This was, of course, the reason why some months later I was posted to take over the Air Firing Flight at 151 (Indian) Operational Training Unit at Peshawar.

The Mark V had a similar maximum speed to the Mark I and Mark II but could reach an operational ceiling of 38,000 feet.

The Mark XIV had a maximum speed of 439 mph, had a tremendous rate of climb and was quite happy at 43,000 feet, a height at which the thin air there meant the other Marks were apt to wallow a bit.

I think the Spitfire Marks reach 24 and, in addition, there were other changes made such as longer wing tips to give better control at great heights and cropped wing tips to increase the rate of roll at low level - not to forget the development of what were called Seafires to fly from aircraft carriers, a job for which the long-nosed Spitfire or Seafire, giving a poor forward view when coming in to land, were not suitable, plus the fact that the undercarriage was not really strong enough to be thumped down on a hard deck.

Pic captions. Top left: I'm in the left in the group of three (and it is not me smoking the pipe); top right: tennis courts at the station; Second row: Anyone for tennis? That's me ready for a game. Third row: Me and another instructor having cycled into Peshawar - and I am pipe smoking; and a Peshawar street scene with some chap on the left trying to sell his wares.

I'm in the left in the group of three   Tennis courts at the station
Anyone for tennis? Me and another instructor having cycled into Peshawar
Some chap on the left trying to sell his wares

At this point the commentary ceased, but there are still some photos. Evidently Dad had plans to keep adding to the album, but his sudden ill-health got in the way. I have included the remaining air force pictures. Some of them were annotated on the back and I have included these annotations.

Annotations

 
Robbie  
A happy smile
from Spike
Goldie me

Robbie  
A happy smile from Spike   Goldie   me
 
 
 




Annotations

FrankieFrank Lloyd Peshawar
Den Allen and bride 
 
 

Annotations

NE Sports jacket. Morcambe 24 August 1942 New tropical kit (??) Nigel outside bungalow
  ? Bert Peacock, Johnny Parsons on same course. Dog Butch. All just been swimming.
Day before w.up? parade Oct 45 Rangoon
Jan 46 65 Squadron Rangoon Oct 45 Val at Rangoon. Crashed Spit behind
  New tropical kit (??) Nigel outside bungalow
Day before w.up? parade   ? Bert Peacock, Johnny Parsons on same course.
			Dog Butch. All just been swimming.
Day before w.up? parade   Oct 45 Rangoon
Jan 46 65 Squadron Rangoon   Oct 45 Val at Rangoon. Crashed Spit behind
 
Air Firing Flight at Ambala  
 
 

The back of this picture is clearly marked 'Crown Copyright' - sorry your madge. It also circles one of the faces, 'Walter'.

There is no caption on this picture, but I (Alistair) recognize it as my mother, Beth, in the uniform she wore as a Red Cross volunteer. The picture was taken the back garden of her home in Munro Place, Anniesland, Glasgow. Gateway to India Bombay
 
Goldie at Ambala 
  

On this page we see the appearance of Goldie. Goldie was a Free-French member of the RAF and friend of Daddy's. He was a French Jew. His real surname was Goldstein and he knew Dad as Eddie. He escaped across the Channel by boat and joined the RAF. I am not sure where and when they met. They kept in touch after the war. As a family, we visited them in Brittany once, and I believe the bottom-right, colour picture was of Goldie and his wife - and our mother, Beth, outside our family home in Stanneylands Drive, Wilmslow.

155 Reunion

The final pictures are evidently more recent. Apparently they were taken at a squadron reunion in Cambridge, on 30 July 2002. The squadron veterans are:
Standing, left to right: Denis Lloyd, Sqn Ldr Lionel 'Rubber' Thorogood, 'Tex' Baxter, Sqn Ldr Ian 'Bats' Krohn (half hidden), Sqn Ldr Gordon Conway, Sid Munro, Norman Curtis, Don Hoffman, Norman Edwards. Seated: Albert 'Witt' Wittridge.

I assume the lower picture is of the members' wives. Mum is in the centre, in the yellow dress and the only other one I have had identified is Diana Munro, who is fifth from the left (next-but-one to Mum).