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I had clocked just over 17 hours of instructing, 17 hours when I was trying to show my pupils how to take off, climb, fly level, make turns, descend, fly on instruments and fly low with safety. So I was 17 hours better myself, however the pupils fared.


I settled down in ‘A’ Flight to a steady job which lasted for the next twelve months. Each instructor had charge of five pupils, who rejoiced in the rank of LAC until, in March 1941, they were described as Cadets. For my first month I was given only four young pupils, Earp, Scott, Todd and Deakin, who were nearing the end of this phase of their flying training. There was nothing remarkable to remember about them or about their flying skills. I must have had much to learn myself, both about handling the Oxford with skill enough to demonstrate how to do things well and about the art of teaching both by word and by example. It was the time of the ‘phoney’ war, with little enemy air activity in progress.


But Brize Norton was a permanent RAF Station, with excellent buildings and hangars, and not a site to which we wanted to attract the odd night intruder with his destructive bombs, so much of our flying training even during the day, was carried out from a neighbouring airfield, Southrop, where there were no buildings and nothing to destroy. We would fly out to Southrop with a pupil, carry out the circuits and bumps and any other training in that area, and return to the home aerodrome to pick up the next pupil. I recorded no night flying in my logbook from the beginning of September until mid-November, although the pupils allocated to me must have been at the stage of training where they were indeed flying in the dark. I can only now surmise that the policy was to keep inexperienced instructors like myself away from night instruction which, in view of the very minimum hours I had flown in the dark, must have been a wise precaution. My first night’s flying instructing was in fact to my second bunch of pupils,


Chase, Clarke, Onions, Moss and O’Reilly. Night flying was always from Southrop, safely away from the main base to ensure that, if intruders were attracted by the lights of the flare-path, they would not be bombing or strafing the valuable permanent buildings and hangars of Brize Norton with their parked aircraft. We used goose-neck flares to illuminate the landing path, large kettles filled with paraffin burning in a thick wick. There was no electric flare-path, extinguishable at the flick of a switch, and when air raid warnings were given we had to douse the flares as quickly as we could.


It was the weather which dictated the progress and length of the flying courses for these young men. There were days when flying was impossible because of poor visibility, low cloud and, on one occasion, the muddy state of the grass field which was Brize Norton’s landing and take-off area. It was found that the Oxford’s wheels were picking up mud and small stones from the ground, so that on take-off the stones were hurled forward as the aircraft


36


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