Service Flying

Dear Peg and Friends,
In my last letter I described how I managed to get myself into the Army. It wasn’t my choice, as I’m not a physical large person, the thought of being involved in one to one hand combat appalled me, if I’m going to have to Fight, I would at least prefer to do it with the aid of a machine, where at least you could ‘out think’ the enemy. So for me, the Air Force was very attractive proposition. As well, I was already fascinated by Air Craft, the thought of flying one appealed in more ways than one. But then again, I had a small problem. My Father who was already in the Air force, didn’t share my fascination with military flying machines. He was more than aware of the attrition and the high number of accidents that went with the training of Pilots. Anyway I persisted with my requests, in the end he relented and signed my papers. For the record I never had any problems with the flying training. I had many close calls and encounters that could have ended my flying career prematurely, but I escaped harm, and was quick to put these incidents down to experience.
But I really should start at the beginning, after an initial interview when I handed in my application to join the Air Force. All air crew were volunteers Twenty one years of age, or with parents permission. Then I was given a set of books, headed ‘Pre Entry exanimations, and study requirements for the selection of Air Crew’. Even to get considered for Air Crew, every candidate had to sit and pass these exams. This exam it was said would be equal to a matriculation. However there were many in my group that had already sat and passed their matric, and they were struggling with the pre-entry exams. I volunteered in a military fashion, (We have decided on your programme, and you will do this) I settled for a combination of both worlds, I guarded Aerodromes at night for some hours, and then went back to school during the day. I had no trouble in passing their exams, and was immediately posted to Rotorua where the Air Force had taken over the whole town. It was headed for bankruptcy until it was taken over lock stock and barrel by the Air Force. It was a tourist town, and the one thing we didn’t have in New Zealand during the war, and that was tourists.
Council Chambers were given a new direction as lecture rooms. Tourist Hotels were reopened and taken over to give them a new life. They lifted the carpets, and they became dormitories for the young Airmen. Local Halls and picture theatres became lecture theatres. Exams became a way of life. Extensive medical and eyesight tests so they certainly had the healthiest bunch for our age group. Exams on academic subjects were given weekly to assist in their selection process. Morse Code was one part of my training I struggled with, but finally I could receive and send the pass rate of fifteen words a minute. The fact that I never used the code was by the by. Slowly and surely we were being sorted to what kind of training we were going to receive in the future, whether it be a Pilot, gunner, pilot/ navigator, or gunner/wireless operator.
As luck would have it I was selected to train as a pilot, and was immediately posted to Taieri to train in Tiger Moths with the object of gaining some sixty or seventy hours in this primary trainer. The Tiger was a basic trainer in every respect. An open cockpit, protected from the elements by a leather helmet, goggles, lambskin coat, pants, jacket and boots. Thick gloves made your hands clumsy. It’s instrument panel was meagre., Two switches for magnetos, Altimeter, Air speed indicator, needle and ball, compass, rev counter, throttle and mixture control. Oil pressure gauge, turn and slip indicator. And that was your lot.
Directional control was by two pedals moved by your feet to activate the rudder, and a column between your legs to control elevators and ailerons. Everything about this biplane was strange and unfamiliar. Even to how the Air Craft smelt. The dope they used on the fabric body and wings, the burnt engine oil.
The instructor asked me when in the air. Could I point out the aerodrome to him? I couldn’t even point out the nearest town. I was so busy with the unfamiliar controls, but gradually everything became right, and one day after about eight hours tuition, I took to the air on my own and solo’d.
At the end of this course when we passed out, we were sorted into for single engined Aircraft, Fighters, or Multi engined, bombers. Half of our course was selected to go to Canada and the other half would be trained in New Zealand. We were given three days leave and soon climbed onto a boat for North America. I was sent to service flying school in Ontario Canada to train on Harvard Aircraft. Now this was a powerful radial engined machine, Aluminium sheaved monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. When I opened the throttle I knew I had control of a real aeroplane this time. The noise was deafening, but it was surprisingly easy to fly. After four of five hundred hours, I graduated and was given my wings. I hadn’t realise it at the time but once I entered the Air Force I had entered onto a an educational programme and it never stopped. I benefited from much of this. In later life I came to realise what a gift I had been given, and I was very grateful.
Love from Christchurch,
Wally
In my last letter I described how I managed to get myself into the Army. It wasn’t my choice, as I’m not a physical large person, the thought of being involved in one to one hand combat appalled me, if I’m going to have to Fight, I would at least prefer to do it with the aid of a machine, where at least you could ‘out think’ the enemy. So for me, the Air Force was very attractive proposition. As well, I was already fascinated by Air Craft, the thought of flying one appealed in more ways than one. But then again, I had a small problem. My Father who was already in the Air force, didn’t share my fascination with military flying machines. He was more than aware of the attrition and the high number of accidents that went with the training of Pilots. Anyway I persisted with my requests, in the end he relented and signed my papers. For the record I never had any problems with the flying training. I had many close calls and encounters that could have ended my flying career prematurely, but I escaped harm, and was quick to put these incidents down to experience.
But I really should start at the beginning, after an initial interview when I handed in my application to join the Air Force. All air crew were volunteers Twenty one years of age, or with parents permission. Then I was given a set of books, headed ‘Pre Entry exanimations, and study requirements for the selection of Air Crew’. Even to get considered for Air Crew, every candidate had to sit and pass these exams. This exam it was said would be equal to a matriculation. However there were many in my group that had already sat and passed their matric, and they were struggling with the pre-entry exams. I volunteered in a military fashion, (We have decided on your programme, and you will do this) I settled for a combination of both worlds, I guarded Aerodromes at night for some hours, and then went back to school during the day. I had no trouble in passing their exams, and was immediately posted to Rotorua where the Air Force had taken over the whole town. It was headed for bankruptcy until it was taken over lock stock and barrel by the Air Force. It was a tourist town, and the one thing we didn’t have in New Zealand during the war, and that was tourists.
Council Chambers were given a new direction as lecture rooms. Tourist Hotels were reopened and taken over to give them a new life. They lifted the carpets, and they became dormitories for the young Airmen. Local Halls and picture theatres became lecture theatres. Exams became a way of life. Extensive medical and eyesight tests so they certainly had the healthiest bunch for our age group. Exams on academic subjects were given weekly to assist in their selection process. Morse Code was one part of my training I struggled with, but finally I could receive and send the pass rate of fifteen words a minute. The fact that I never used the code was by the by. Slowly and surely we were being sorted to what kind of training we were going to receive in the future, whether it be a Pilot, gunner, pilot/ navigator, or gunner/wireless operator.
As luck would have it I was selected to train as a pilot, and was immediately posted to Taieri to train in Tiger Moths with the object of gaining some sixty or seventy hours in this primary trainer. The Tiger was a basic trainer in every respect. An open cockpit, protected from the elements by a leather helmet, goggles, lambskin coat, pants, jacket and boots. Thick gloves made your hands clumsy. It’s instrument panel was meagre., Two switches for magnetos, Altimeter, Air speed indicator, needle and ball, compass, rev counter, throttle and mixture control. Oil pressure gauge, turn and slip indicator. And that was your lot.
Directional control was by two pedals moved by your feet to activate the rudder, and a column between your legs to control elevators and ailerons. Everything about this biplane was strange and unfamiliar. Even to how the Air Craft smelt. The dope they used on the fabric body and wings, the burnt engine oil.
The instructor asked me when in the air. Could I point out the aerodrome to him? I couldn’t even point out the nearest town. I was so busy with the unfamiliar controls, but gradually everything became right, and one day after about eight hours tuition, I took to the air on my own and solo’d.
At the end of this course when we passed out, we were sorted into for single engined Aircraft, Fighters, or Multi engined, bombers. Half of our course was selected to go to Canada and the other half would be trained in New Zealand. We were given three days leave and soon climbed onto a boat for North America. I was sent to service flying school in Ontario Canada to train on Harvard Aircraft. Now this was a powerful radial engined machine, Aluminium sheaved monoplane with a retractable undercarriage. When I opened the throttle I knew I had control of a real aeroplane this time. The noise was deafening, but it was surprisingly easy to fly. After four of five hundred hours, I graduated and was given my wings. I hadn’t realise it at the time but once I entered the Air Force I had entered onto a an educational programme and it never stopped. I benefited from much of this. In later life I came to realise what a gift I had been given, and I was very grateful.
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