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I was asked to do some turns flying blind, under the hood. The first was a turn of 30° of bank – pretty well perfect, without losing or gaining a single foot of height. Next I was asked to do a 45° turn – again perfect. There was a note of exasperation in Sayers’s voice when he then told me to do a turn of 60° bank, something which was simply not asked for when flying under the hood. It must have irritated him that this, too, was completed without losing or gaining a foot of height, and the test came to its end.


There was one interesting interlude in this training programme when, for the four days of March 15th to March 18th I was transferred to a unit stationed at Bibury for instruction on using the Lorenz Beam Approach landing system. Here, at the BAT Flight, my instructor was F/Sgt Patterson and I enjoyed trying out something completely new. One episode I failed to enjoy was when we made a trip which I cannot identify from my logbook record but which I remember quite vividly. We had to fly up to some now forgotten aerodrome in Norfolk for some forgotten purpose, and return. We were on that return flight, with F/Sgt Patterson at the controls, when he decided to descend through the cloud above which we were flying at about 3,000 feet. The cloud tops were about 1,000 or 1,500 feet below us and it was unbroken stratus, with the ground completely concealed. He throttled back, put the nose down and began to descend at a reasonably controlled rate. We broke cloud at 1,200 feet, with the 1,100 foot masts of the aerials of the Hillmorton radio station, just on the edge of Rugby, immediately below us. We were literally right in the middle of that aerial forest and had the cloudbase been fifty or a hundred feet lower we would never have survived. But we did and I finished the Course as planned on April 14th with ‘Above the Average on Oxfords’ as my Unit Assessment – and I would have been discontented with anything less than that.


* * * * * T


here was more human interest in the next posting and the next three and a half months. South Cerney and Bibury had both been near enough to Oxford to allow me to get there by car often enough and the next attachment was even nearer, for it was at Abingdon, the very aerodrome from which I had made my first flights in the Avro 504N in October 1933. That was a mere seven miles from Whitehouse Road and the family and there was stationed No. 10 Operational Training Unit where the real preparation for operational flying with Bomber Command would begin. For it was my fate to be consigned to fly with Bomber Command. One main purpose of the unit was to allow crews to form themselves from the intake of pilots, gunners, wireless operators, navigators, bomb aimers and flight engineers who were gathered together at this one Station. I say ‘form themselves’, for there was no allocation of crew members who were supposed to look around, talk amongst themselves and


92


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