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pilots – experienced in handling aircraft if not in fighting the War in them – to be posted for the first time to an operational unit. I had held the rank of Flight Lieutenant since September 1942 and was already drawing ‘stagnation pay’, as we used to call it, which meant the award of an extra one shilling and nine pence a day (about 8p) over and above the normal pay of (I think) twenty one shillings (£1.05) for Flight Lieutenants who had stayed in that rank for two years. So I was told that in view of my hours and experience I would be posted to an operational unit where there would be early prospects of promotion to the rank of Squadron Leader. That unit turned out to be 77 Heavy Bomber Squadron based at Full Sutton some thirteen miles from York, and part of the No. 4 Group of Halifaxes.


I still had been able to run my car and I turned up at Full Sutton with it after a bit of leave back with the family in Oxford. There was nothing that looked very permanent about Full Sutton. It was one of a group of three Halifax Stations with the main one nearby at Pocklington, and although it had three (I think) hard runways, the rest of it looked nothing like Cranwell or Brize Norton or any Station with decent mess buildings and hangars. Wood and corrugated sheeting had been the favoured constructional materials and on the low hillside which overlooked the landing field itself were perched a number of Nissen huts, one of which was to be my home for the months to come. With my crew I was allocated to ‘B’ Flight. I am no longer sure how many of us pilots there were in a single Flight, there being three Flights in the Squadron, but it was something like eight, or maybe one or two more. We had a New Zealander and a Canadian and the rest of us were from the home country. They were either Flying Officers with one stripe, or Flight Sergeants, apart from F/Lt Bridges, our Canadian, and the Squadron Leader who was Flight Commander and whose signature does not seem to crop up in my logbook at the end of the first month of flying at Full Sutton. My memory is not too clear, for he was on the point of leaving the Squadron at the end of a successful tour of duty, and within days of my arrival F/Lt Harold Bridges was promoted to that job and the rank which went with it.


It was with S/Ldr Bridges as 1st pilot that the crew and I did our first flying with the Squadron – simple dual on the type, this being the Halifax Mk III powered, unlike the Mk II and Mk V versions, by air-cooled radial engines, the Bristol Hercules XVI. There was nothing else very different from what I had been handling, and I recorded only 20 minutes dual on October 26th 1944, to be followed over the next three days by two cross-country flights of just over three hours each, both in daylight.


There was little delay before we found ourselves at last in the real War. I suppose that up to this time the nearest I had got to hostilities was in night flying in Britain before my posting to Southern Rhodesia, when there was always the chance of German intruders, and my one flight in the old Gladiator


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