No. 2 Flying Training School
Royal Air Force
Brize Norton, Oxford
Sunday, October 16, 1938
I received your letters, all 3 of them, yesterday. I wondered why I hadn't heard from you, I thought probably you letter had been lost. It was raining this morning but the sun is shining now and it is quite nice outside.
Yesterday afternoon Doug and I borrowed our Batmen's push-bikes and rode up to Tissington, another R.A.F. station where some of our friends are. We stayed there for tea and came back home for supper. I must be getting the cycling habit.
That Dundas boy in the picture is from Pelly - he is in Egypt now. I didn't get much flying last week, only on Monday and Friday. On Friday I went (solo) on a cross-country trip of about 300 miles. I left there at 2:15 p.m. for an aerodrome near Portsmouth on the south coast. About half way I "shot up" Basingstoke, meaning I was doing some "reco" (reconnaissance work), drawing a map of the town, etc., counting trains, trucks. After I got to Tantmere I went along the coast eastwards, (on my own), then I altered my course (compass) in aline for Bristol on the Severn River. About half way there I was supposed to land at Boscome-down. Well, I stayed there for about 10 minutes and realized I would be overdue if I didn't make up for lost time, so from there to Bristol and back here I opened 'er up to about 190 m.p.h. (ordinary cruising speed speed is about 160 m.p.h.) so I got back here right on the dot - I was away 2 hours 15 minutes all together. Anyhow, I passed my test, and that is more than most of them did.
Before we go on a cross-country we go with the Navigation Instruction for a test. Two of us went with him. The first fellow piloted the first half of the trip, then I took over and the Navigation Instructor only let me fly for about half an hour (our trip was 2 hours), then I guess he thought I was getting along too well so he told me to get in the back and change with the other chap. he didn't follow his course so well and didn't pass it, that is why quite a few of the boys didn't get to go on a cross-country solo. I sure love to do navigation - it's great rambling about the country - reading maps. On my trip I used a nice sum for me to go joy riding. It will cost them more than that before i am through with this course.
You asked about a Navigator;s Certificate. That means besides just being able to fly, that you have qualified in map reading, calculating courses, calculating wind speed and direction, and to pin point your location while flying. To get this Navigator's Certificate we go to Manston which is on the north-east corner of Kent near Dover. There we fly with a navigator - that is 2 of us change about piloting and navigating - out over the North Sea. While out there we get instructions by radio that we are to change course and to some other point to intercept a ship. After we get more instruction by W/T (wireless telephone) and in that manner they send us all over. That is navigation - not map reading, the water has no land marks.
We have had several machine-gun practices on the range. We get belts of cartridges with bent and dud rounds in them so that we learn how to clear stoppages, and what causes them.
I can receive about 10 to 12 words a minuted in Morse Code. A 'word' is 5 letters. We don't use telegraph clicker keys - we use a buzzer with a key - that is so we can send and receive while in the air. Our planes are equipped with radio.
Some of the boys got a little dual night flying on Saturday. I was supposed to go up at 11:30 but it got too foggy.
We had what they cal a "Guest Night" last Tuesday. There weren't any outsiders, just all of us Officers. The Junior Term had to provide some entertainment for the Senior Term; if it wasn't satisfactory you had to go in the pen ( a corner of the room). After the entertainment was all over they made those in the pen run the gauntlet, which meant crawling under 2 tables and run between two lines of Seniors armed with knotted towels and newspapers rolled up. As they were getting ready for for this, everyone, and I mean everyone, stripped of their jackets, shirts, right to the waist, loosening the straps under wellingtons so our trousers were loose, then went through the works. As we went under the tables we had soda water and beer squirted at us, what a turmoil - then -the fight (which everyone was anticipating) started - Juniors vs. Seniors. You couldn't imagine such a transformation - with in 10 seconds there were about a hundred of us scrapping on the floor and all over the lounge room. Of course it was all in fun. Some of the boys thought they could leave their shirts on, well, they have to buy new ones now! After we were too tired to go any more we sang a few group songs and went to bed. Everyone was so tired they could hardly walk. That's what they call "Guest Night". The whole thing was really silly but I guess it is the only chance we let loose all our pent-up emotions and energy. Oh yes, the Seniors threw one of our chaps in the bathtub before we got through we had 3 of them in the water, clothes and all.
We are having our big dance her on the 28th. I don't know ow sophisticated it is going to be. I'll leave that until I find out.
I wrote a letter to Vernon. I got a letter from him and I guess he sure has his noes to the grindstone. He says Lyons is real good to him and helps him all he can.
I think am just about out of news, so I think I'll start a letter to Esther. She said in her last letter she has only received 2 letters from me and she should have about 10 by now, so apparently some of them have been lost. You seem to get all of mine. I am glad you got plenty fair crop this year.
I suppose you were all quite worried over the prospects of war - well, I couldn't see how there could be a war - although everyone was or acted awfully scared. Nearly everyone in England has had gas masks issued to them and the parks in London and all over are dug full of trenches and gas-proof chambers. About half the school children were sent out to the country, and a lot of people moved out. During the scare none of us could get week-end leave, and those on holidays were all recalled to their units. Well, it's all over with so there's nothing to worry about.
Take good care of yourselves and don't work too hard. I suppose you will soon be having snow and frosts.
Will write again next Sunday.
P.S. Thanks for the letter, Dad and Harold. Keep on writing. E.