Tiger Moths

 

I mentioned earlier, I was initially inducted into the Air Force in Ashburton, after doing a short period of guard duties and study I moved on to training proper. It seems now that all was only yesterday. I soon passed all my next set of ‘entry’ exams and then was accepted for assessment and training as Air Crew in the New Zealand Air Force. All successful candidates were initially posted to Rotorua, where the Air Force had taken over the whole town. Not a tourist in sight, all the town’s amenities had been pressed into War Time service. There seemed to be hundreds of young men passing through, all being streamed into the various ‘flight’ careers, such as Navigators, Pilots, Bomb Aimers, Wireless Operators, and Air Gunners.

 

This was a small but important part of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Several Hotels, if not all, were pressed onto service as ready made barracks. Carpets had been rolled up and put away for the duration of the war, Normal pampering I suppose, would be returned after the War. As well, all the fine dinning gear, linen and silver was also put away, and out of sight. It didn’t grace any tables during my stay. Meals were now being served buffet style, with the Airmen passing a line of cooks which was the order of the day for the Hotel until the War ended, and tourists returned. A vegetable I had never seen before was Kumara, it always seemed to be served up in some form or other.

 

Council Chambers were now given a new role as lecture rooms, the movie theatres were excellent for Air Craft Recognition, in fact there was nothing left in the town of a civilian nature that hadn’t been pressed into service. If you weren’t a serviceman, you were probably employed by the Air Force. The whole town was now a huge Air Force Station without an Air Field. Of course every young man wanted to be a Pilot, but those in charge had to be sure you measured up in so many ways. So more classes and exams, until those in charge made their finally selections. Medical exams seemed to be endless, many hopefuls were tossed aside because of eye sight deficiencies, and a myriad other reasons.

 

I was finally accepted as a trainee pilot and given the coveted white flash to wear in my cap. I was then posted to Taieri Air Port, and my training began. Strangely I had never been in an Air Craft before and I didn’t think many of the others had either. So none of us had any idea of what was in store for us in the future. My initial fight was one of familiarisation, when the disembodied voice came through the voice tube, (No electronics here, it was just a plain speaking tube straight to your ears). ‘Can you now point out to me the Air Port’? I really didn’t have a clue. I couldn’t have even pointed out Mosgiel township. I was in a Tiger Moth, the Air Force’s primary trainer, very basic, no brakes, no self starter, even the instruments were primitive, no artificial horizon, even the landing lights were in the form of flares. We did have a primitive needle and ball instrument, altimeter, Air speed indicator, rev counter, compass. Sitting in an open cockpit you were wrapped up in jacket, pants, boots, all made from sheep skin. Leather head gear, and Goggles. Your only protection from the elements was a small wind screen.

 

Nothing was familiar, even to the smell of the Air Craft, which smelt strongly of dope that they stretched the fabric covering wings and frame. After about eight hours tuition, my instructor jumped out of the plane and said, ‘See if you can fly this thing on your own’. I need not have worried, I felt he was still with me, carping away in my ear telling me to, watch this, watch that, don’t hold off in the turns, until I safely landed again. My career as a pilot was now truly under way.

 

My career was not with out incident. I still had to learn about, ‘Old Pilots, and Bold Pilots’ and the fact there were no, ‘Old Bold Pilots’. One rainy day I popped up through a hole in the clouds and played around in bright sunshine thinking, what a lucky guy I was. But when I decided to return to the dull wet land below. The hole had gone and I had no idea where I was. I also knew the Air Field was in a basin and surrounded by mountains on all sides. After taking into account all my options, I flew out to sea and let down there, and then flew back up the Taieri River. I never told about my stupid move. Another time I was preparing to take off when the Control Tower signalled a wind change with a smoke flare. My take off path now took me into the smoke, I flew into the smoke and immediately lost all forward vision until the smoke cleared. To my horror there immediately in front of me was the Control Tower. They would never have known who the errant pilot was, they would have all been too busy lying on the floor. Looking back now I should have felt sorry for our instructors, there were fifty other trainee pilots all loose, all getting into ‘situations’ of their own making.

 

 

 

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