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the superannuated bomber aircraft which had been retired from operations considerably before this date.


My recollection of flying the Whitley is that there was nothing very attractive about it. It was less than roomy, awkward to get in and out of, and its performance in the air was nothing to thrill its pilot. After learning to handle the new aircraft with some dual from more than one instructor – I flew as pilot without an instructor after 2 hours 50 minutes of dual – the main exercises consisted of cross-country flights, first by day and then by night, plus bombing practice and fighter affiliation. There was little that was remarkable to report from that period, for we were singularly free from any enemy interference such as had been becoming a nuisance in my Brize Norton days. We flew from both Abingdon itself and another field at Stanton Harcourt which I remember because one way back to Oxford was to ‘cross the stripling Thames at Bablockhythe.’ And I did manage to get back to Oxford with fair frequency, so the posting passed quite happily as the crew settled down and built up its efficiency. Jimmy Ward and I became close friends – our friendship lasted until he died at the early age of 63 in 1987.


Our No. 103 Course on the Whitely ended on the 3rd of August 1944, and I was quite content with my Unit Assessment which read: As a MB Pupil Pilot… Above Average


I left Abingdon and Stanton Harcourt with 2025 hours 55 minutes in my logbook, adjudged ready, it would seem, at last to move behind the controls of a four-engined bomber.


That experience was to be gained at No. 1663 Heavy Conversion Unit based at the RAF. Station at Rufforth, near York. There, my crew and I had to learn how to behave in the aircraft we were due to fly on operations, the four-engined Handley Page Halifax. Rufforth was a permanent Station, with a good mess and accommodation, and the conversion was not too tedious. I first had dual on the Mark V Halifax, with its four liquid-cooled Rolls Royce Merlin engines, on August 27th and the last flight with my crew at this unit was on October 9th in a Mark II version similarly powered. It was interesting because flying with four engines is just a bit different and I enjoyed learning to handle the 30-ton Halifax and that lovely feeling when, with one hand, the power of four great engines can be brought into play and all their propellers synchronised and controlled. The Course was mainly concerned with handling the Halifax, and that was what I enjoyed about flying aeroplanes – just handling them, even the right way up.


It was during this Rufforth attachment that I did get in a bit of flying that was as nearly upside down as I had managed for some time. On October 1st I happened to be in the crew room of our Flight when F/Lt Amlot, our Flight C/O, walked in and said, somewhat carelessly as if it didn’t matter what the reply was:


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