FLYING MEMORIES 12 - NOTES
- Every Aircrew member of The Royal Air Force is a volunteer.
- Time required for a Cadet Pilot to win his Wings (Brevet) was (in war time) about 9 months of intensive training.
- Extensive medical written and mental agility tests were taken before being accepted as trainee aircrew.
- On completion of the three learning to fly courses Primary, Basic and Advanced plus 160 hours flying time in your Log ⯯k on three different types of aircraft more advanced and more powerful we were posted to an O.T.U. (Operational Training Unit)
- At O.T.U. we were further instructed by Pilots who had completed ONE or more Tours of operational flying with a front line squadron. These instructors briefed us on the various instruments, knobs, levers and how to operate the undercarriage flaps, wireless and oxygen systems before sending you off for a first flight in an old but still operational front line fighter.
This course lasted about 6 to 8 weeks during which we were instructed in the art of both Air to Air and Air to Ground gunnery practice, Battle Formations, Low Flying and assimilated Dog Fights plus a lot of cross country flights in order to bring our Map Reading up to standard.
After numerous checks both in the air and in the classroom we waited hopefully to see our names appear on the notice board notifying us to report to a front line Fighter Squadron.
I was lucky to be posted to 198 Sqdn, which was stationed at Manston in Kent and was in the thick of all the action at that time. The Sqdn were flying Hawker Typhoons which was a 7 ton monster compared with its much smaller stable mate the Hurricane.
The engine, a Napier Sabre, was more than twice as powerful as the Merlin used in the Hurricane and Spitfire in 1943 and thus made it the fastest aircraft at the time being able to fly at 400mph at sea level.
The plane was of all metal construction, a low winged monoplane with four 20mm cannons and the engine of 2200hp with 24 cylinders in an 蠓 configuration.
Long Range Tanks, 8 Rocket Rails or two 1000lb Bombs could be attached to its wings according to the operation to be carried out.
It is claimed that the hitting power of a salvo of all eight rockets was equivalent to a broadside from a Naval Cruiser.
Flying a TIFFY was pure magic and we felt safe in such a sturdy and powerful well armed aircraft.
When operating from England we would take off ( usually in pairs ) and join up as a Squadron still at deck level in order to avoid being seen on the enemy Radar.
Staying at sea level we set course for our pre determined target and would remain as low as possible until we were about 4 miles from the enemy coastline when we would climb as hard as we could in order to avoid the 40mm anti aircraft guns, which could fire at an extremely fast rate and were lethal up to about 8000ft which was about there extreme range.
Once over enemy territory we remained at about 10,000ft and flew on to the target.
As we approached the target area the leader would order us into echelon prior to rolling on our backs to dive quite steeply on to the target which we hit with Rockets or if so instructed before taking off with Bombs.
Anti Aircraft fire from the many enemy 88mm and 40mm guns defending targets was our main danger.
The ground and target would disappear because of the smoke caused from the numerous shell explosions which meant that the last planes down had to fly through this cloud of flak before the pilot could see the target.
Typhoon Pilot losses were not the result of being shot down by enemy fighters but from the fierce Flak put up by the German gunners.
Prior to D -Day our main targets were the very many enemy Radar Stations dotted all along the enemy coast and these became very strongly defended. This caused many losses of Pilots and many aircraft were severely damaged.
From April 1944 onwards we were to leave the warmth of brick built sleeping and eating quarters and go under canvas although we were still flying from England. This prepared us for the coming Invasion of France.
As D -Day approached we started attacking the Radar Stations in the Normandy and Cherbourg areas thus making the enemy Radar blind of the Invasion Fleet that was to come.
Shortly after the army landed in Normandy their engineers started bulldozing air- strips out of the countryside so that we could operate nearer to our own troops.
These Air Strips were so dusty that when we landed or took off we created dust- clouds which invited the German gunners to shell us, so until the enemy had been pushed further back we had to fly from England to carry out our attack and return to England using the new strips only in an emergency.
From July onwards we were able to operate from the various Landing Strips and were thus able to give the Army all the support they required. Operating a system called Cab Rank, which entailed 4 or more aircraft orbiting above the troops waiting to be called down to attack a target that the army wanted destroyed.
The Target was pinpointed from either a map grid reference but mostly from coloured smoke used by the Army to indicate the exact position of the enemy.
The Army would fire a coloured Mortar shell or Artillery shell usually emitting red smoke to indicate the Target. We would come screaming down over their heads guns blazing hopefully to knockout the strongpoint. This type of operation was known as CAB RANK and on most occasions we had an operational pilot assisting the Army.
He would be either based with the forward Army Command Post or in a leading Tank in the area but in both cases would be in radio contact with the attacking aircraft.
On many occasions we attacked and destroyed enemy gun positions only a few hundred yards from our own troops.
When we first tried to operate from the Army made landing strips in Normandy, we had to erect our tents over trenches which we had to dig, (because of shelling) and then placed empty metal Rocket Containers across the trench before settling down for the night.
With the shelling by day or whenever aircraft landed or took off, plus the shrapnel falling at night when GERMAN AIRCRAFT attacked the BEACHHEAD life was very noisy. Fortunately these conditions only lasted a few days and we were made to operate from ENGLAND until the Germans had been pushed further back.
We were stationed at a place called Martrgny which was situated just off the main highway between Caen and Bayeaux.
This landing strip was to be the base for 198 and 609 squadrons from early July until September 1944 and from where we inflicted severe damage to the enemy at such places as Mortain, Caen, Falaise and numerous other targets.
I remained with the squadron until Nov.1944 and we were now at a place called Ursel in Belgium when I was sent home on TOUR EXPIRED leave.
Tony Hallett August 2005