the low ceiling. Endeavouring to map read at such a low height while flying over territory containing numerous roads and railways crisscrossing and running all directions, often having to read the aircraft instruments and look ahead for obstructions, I became lost. I flew with 15 degrees of flap to maintain safe control at a slower speed, but I was unable to pinpoint my location on the map. I still had a reasonable fuel supply when I flew over an air base where the planes were all grounded because of the bad weather. I made a quick circuit, landed and taxied up to the control tower. The control officer said that if I shut off the engines I would have to stay. Therefore I left the engines idling at I 000 rpm, set the brakes, and walked into the control tower where I was told I had landed at Polebrook, a United States Air Force base. I drew a line on my map from Polebrook to Grantham, took off and map-read my way back to my base, landed and parked the plane in its proper place. When I landed at Grantham I was over two hours late; however nobody asked me why I was overdue. Flying Officer Osborne, RAF, was one of the pilots killed during the flying training of Course# 17. Ground school classes were Morse code wireless, navigation , meteorology, aircraft recognition, armament, and engines. During a pass I went to London and spent the night at a servicemen's hostel at Earls Court. That night the air raid sirens began wailing and the German planes dropped their bombs. Instead of going to an air raid shelter as most cautious people would do, I stayed in my room which was on an upper floor. I could not quite muster the urge to leave the hostel bed and traverse four flights of stairs for a sojourn in a bomb shelter. Next morning I looked out the window and noticed that the street was barricaded. A large bomb had dropped in the street in front of the building but had failed to explode. Being a born collector I picked up from the streets of London about twenty pieces of shrapnel which I still have.
On 29 February I was posted to No. 51 Operational Training Unit at Cranfield, Buckinghamshire. Here we had to learn to fly twin-engine Bristol Beaufighters, an airplane which had a gross weight of over twelve tons, and a top speed of over 300 mph. This was a plane on which we could not receive dual instruction because it had only one front seat and no provision for a second pilot. I was in Course #31 which had 25 pilots and 24 radio navigators. Six of the pilots held the rank of Flight Lieutenant or higher. One of the pilots was a Technical Sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps. An RAF Sergeant, who was not a member of aircrew, gave each pilot instruction while he was sitting in the pilot's seat of a Beaufighter cockpit section called a "dummy fuselage." We had to learn the readings and all the operations of the instruments, gauges, switches, controls, and radio. We had to be proficient in going through the sequences of operations needed by a pilot during takeoff, climb, flight, gliding, and landing. This would include adjustment of the propellers, engine coolers, retracting the landing gear, operation of the flaps, and radio operation. When the ground instructor was satisfied that the pilot knew what to do in the cockpit, he would approve the pilot to fly the Beaufighter. I received nine hours and 40 minutes dual day-and-night flying, and instrument flying in a Bristol Beaufort. On 19 March I made my first solo flight in a Beaufighter. After 5 ½ hours of solo flying I was assigned a radio-navigator, Sergeant Donald MacNicol from Winnipeg. The call sign allocated to me was "Jungle three niner," used mostly during radio communications. During time off we often chummed around with another crew in the same course, Sergeant Robert S. Walker, a pilot, and Sergeant George R. Fawcett, his radio-navigator. During a landing on 23 April the port tire blew out and the drag was too great to keep the Beaufighter on the runway. The wheel tore a deep groove in the sod, although the plane was undamaged. There was another pilot coming in to land behind me, and after I got stopped I heard his voice on the radio saying "good show three niner!"
During a night flight in April. I was flying near London when several flights of German aircraft began dropping bombs. I could see the German planes coned in the searchlights with numerous anti-aircraft shells exploding around them. There was nothing I could do because on training flights we carried no ammunition for the guns. During night flights we were directed by ground control which gave us messages by radio. The Germans had jammed our radio frequencies during the raid so I could not be vectored back to base. Also the lights were shut off at the airfields to prevent them from becoming a target, so I was unable to land during the raid. After the raid was over and the radio jamming was lifted I was directed back to my base. On 30 April, after 32 hours and 55 minutes day-and-night flying training in a Mark I Beaufighter plus numerous hours in ground classes I finished my course at No. 51 OTU.
Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum
Canada 150 Vignette – 29 of 150
British Commonwealth Air Training Plan
A World War II Memory
Stan Reynolds - Pilot - Part 2 of 3
LAC Stan Reynolds readies himself for a solo flight in a Cessna Crane at No. 4 SFTS, Saskatoon, during April 1943. Note the quick release fastener at the front of the parachute harness and the ripcord on his left side. Photo courtesy Stanley G. Reynolds.
On 22 September I was posted to No. 12 Advanced Flying Unit at Grantham, Lincolnshire, where I was one of 51 pilots in Course #17. In this course were servicemen from around the world: 33 RAF, six RCAF, four RAAF [Royal Australian Air Force], two RNZAF [Royal New Zealand Air Force], two SAAF [South African Air Force], an airman from Pol and one from Java, one from Scotland one from USA. One of the pilots in this course was S/L George Edwards, who was the Chief Flying Instructor during the time I was training at No. 4 SFTS Saskatoon. We were flying twin-engine Bristol Blenheim Mark Vs, known in England as `Bisleys.’ I received 4 ½ hours dual-instruction before my first solo flight on 8 October, and was promoted to Flight Sergeant on 30 October.
Shortly before Christmas a group of about half a dozen airmen in my barrack block got together to play carols using a group of bottles partially filled with water. Each bottle was filled to a different level to produce a different musical note when an airman blew over the top of the bottle. Each of us controlled several bottles and after hours of practice we became quite proficient in playing "Good King Wenceslas."
During a solo cross-country flight on 24 February 1944, the ceiling, 10/10th overcast, came down and I was forced down to under 300 feet to fly below
Part 2 – Training Overseas in a OTU (Operational Training Unit)
I went home on embarkation leave prior to leaving for overseas. I boarded a train with other airmen, and arrived at No.1 "Y" Depot, Halifax, Nova Scotia, on 21 June. A few days later we boarded the troop ship "Louis Pasteur," joined a convoy and headed for England. The ships travelled in a zig-zag path to lessen the chances of being hit by a torpedo from an enemy submarine. We were told that some submarines were picked up in the ships sonar, although no ships were torpedoed in this convoy.
On Dominion Day I was posted with other pilots to No. 3 Personnel Receiving Centre at Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. This city had been the target of a low-level attack by enemy aircraft and a number of buildings showed mute evidence of the strafing and bombing. At Bournemouth we were given training in parachute-harness releasing over land and water, use of the life preservers called "Mae Wests," jumping into a pool of water from a high platform, and lots of physical exercise which included routinely swimming several lengths of the swimming pool. We also received instruction on the use of firearms ,and did target practice with revolvers. As part of our emergency kit, our photographs were taken in civilian clothes, to be used by the underground for forged passports if we were forced down in enemy territory. We received training and tests on wireless, aircraft recognition, link theory, armament, ship recognition, and naval theory. On 26 and 27 August, at the Empire Central Flying School at Hullavington, I took flight tests in a Miles Master and an Airspeed Oxford. From Bournemouth the pilots were posted to various bases for further flight training, depending upon their qualifications and capabilities. I was fortunate to have good night vision, good aircraft recognition and my ability as a pilot was satisfactory so it was decided my further flying training should be as a night fighter pilot.