£200.00 in donations

I have now collected a total of just over £200.00 through the Where They Served project, some of which has gone to the RAF Charitable Trust as part of the Pre-War Prescott ticket donations, but the majority of course is for the RAF Benevolent Fund. My thanks to all those who have donated so generously so far.

It may seem as if things have gone quiet at the moment, but in fact it is all very busy behind the scenes. The airfields tour proper is scheduled to start in April 2015, and currently Ground Control and I are working on the itinerary, which is quite a big job.  On the vehicle side, Thetford Engineering have booked Chattie into their vintage car workshop for a complete assessment and overhaul, which will happen, hopefully, at the end of September, and work on the car will I suspect be continuing throughout the Autumn months, as we also have to try and fit her with an all-weather hood.  I am also working on raising sponsorship for next year.  If you can help with this, or are interested in sponsoring Where They Served for the national tour next year, please get in touch.

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Serving in the beer tent

WTSBeerTent

It just shows how careful one has to be with photographs.  Here’s Where They Served – right in front of the beer tent!

 

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Coming Clean

OK, it’s confession time.  Here’s my experience in full of offloading Chattie for the first time ON MY OWN. It was at the Royal International Air Tattoo .  Read carefully if you want to learn how NOT to do it, and avoid the most basic mistake.

After my two-hour drive to Fairford, I had arrived in the Sprinter, with Chattie strapped on the back, to the place on the airfield allocated by RIAT for trade vehicles.  I was the only person there, among a few parked trucks; so with a bit of relief that there was no one to watch me, I put my swede gardening gloves on to protect my hands, and tackled the businsess of unloading the car.

I was being so careful about the webbing straps, which had taken us (Ground Control and I) so very long to do up and get right the night before, that I concentrated on getting them undone in the right order, leaving Chattie’s left front wheel to the last, as it was towards the highest point on the flatbed, nearest the cab. I had forgotten the most important bit of all, which was to attach the winch before unstrapping ANYTHING.  I thought I was doing really well.  But when I loosened the last webbing strap, it started paying out and the car itself moved backwards, beginning a roll down the flatbed. I had put on the handbrake, but obviously not enough to hold it on the slope.  Talk about panic feeling! I immediately felt the webbing paying out through my left hand; meanwhile my right hand, which had just opened the ‘spindle’ out to ‘unlock’ it, wasn’t strong enough to pull the lever to re-cock it again. With my left hand I was pulling with all my might to try and stop the strapping from paying out further.  Inch by inch I was losing, and I just couldn’t get the handle to go back to the ratchet point.  I’d like you just to imagine the situation.  One 1935 vintage car on a flatbed trailer about 2.5 feet off the ground, heading inexorably towards the two narrow tracking planks, but not necessarily properly lined up.  If I couldn’t stop the car going backwards, it was going to plunge off the treads and fall damaged amongst them.  My only hope was to let go of the webbing with my left hand and use both hands as quickly as I could to get the webbing ‘spindle’ (I don’t know what it’s called) to lock.  Even then, would one web-strapping hold the whole car?

At this point, a friendly voice behind me said cheerfully, ‘Do you want any help?’  Without turning round I instantly recognised the voice of Christian, a RIAT volunteer who had shown me to my place. ‘Yes!’ I shouted. ‘Please can you put that chock there under that wheel!’  He did so, and immediately I was able to put both hands to the spindle and ratchet the thing back a little, then lock it. ‘Thank you!’ I said, with great feeling. ‘Perhaps it would be a good idea to put it on the winch?’ said Christian in as tactful a way as it would be possible for anyone do say so under the circumstances.  That young man knew absolutely it would be a good idea, but showed what I consider to be the most exceptional tact and diplomacy I have come across in a long time.  ‘Absolutely it would!’ I said, ‘I was just about to do it!’  Christian, I think you saved my life that day.  I’ve thanked you several times, but here’s another for the road.  You were an angel in disguise, sent to rescue me from total disaster, and I’ll never forget it.

I truly believe I will never forget this lesson, either.  I will NEVER loosen up the strappings on the car UNTIL I’VE ATTACHED IT TO THE WINCH FIRST.

I know some of you men out there will be chuckling at tutting at me, but I don’t care – I’ve come clean now so that some poor soul following me won’t make the same mistake.

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Turning heads

Driving back from Kidderminster with Chattie on the Sprinter, I drew up at some lights and two young lads across the road shouted out – ‘Is that a Bugatti?’  Of course,I replied, ‘No, it’s a Singer Le Mans,’ before the lights changed.  They shrugged as I moved off as if to say, ‘A Singer Le What?!’  I’ll never know why they thought it might be a Bugatti I was carrying, but was impressed they were interested enough to ask.

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Mercedes-Benz

Ground Control and I are going back to Kidderminster tomorrow to pick up the Sprinter (still loaded up with Chattie) after its service. A rather expensive service, as it turns out, but at least we know the Sprinter is good and roadworthy. We had to take it to the Mercedes-Benz dealer, and as I chatted to their Service Advisor, Andrew Brown, he said, ‘My father was in the RAF, too’.  Turns out his father, Thomas Royster ‘Roy’ Brown, was a Ground Crew engineer with one of the reconnaissance squadrons.  ‘In fact,’ said Andrew, ‘It’s funny you should come today, because I’ve got this with me; it’s from a Spitfire’ and he reached down beside the desk and picked up a piece of equipment that looked like something you might use for technical drawing. See photo:

AndreBrownRygo

Andrew Brown, with equipment from his father’s Spitfire reconnaissance squadron, used to translate the photographic information into accurate compass bearings and miles to target.

Andrew explained that his father worked on the photographs brought back by the reconnaissance Spitfires, taking the plates off the aircraft and analysing them, in order to work out the distances and degrees on the photographs and translate them into miles and readable navigation routes. These would then be fed back to the bomber squadrons, pinpointing the target and how they were going to reach it: a vital part of the ability of Bomber Command to get its planes to target successfully. This piece of equipment Andrew is holding, calibrated for this purpose, was used in this way by his father.

Meanwhile, Chattie is in good – if rather overwhelming – company!

SprinterInRecovery

 

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How’s that for parking?

Parked up at the Rising Sun Hotel near Pre-War Prescott. Not bad, eh?

HotelParked

parking

 

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The rig

As a matter of record, it took me 1 hour 45 minutes to get Chattie onto the back of the Sprinter and firmly tied down, at the end of Pre-War Prescott. Working on my own, it’s hard work, but this was always part of the challenge. We have some modifications to make to the rig, which will make it easier, like loops to go round the wheels instead of wrapping the webbing round. But here, for the record, is the result, which I’m glad to say lasted the whole way home.  Here Chattie is shown still tied down on the way to Rygor’s of Kidderminster, for the Sprinter to have its service.  Easier to leave Chattie on the back, after all that effort. Here I’m showing off my finished rigging.  Not the best, perhaps, but MY best!

RiggedUp

Chattie tied down according to Elizabeth Halls. Blood, sweat and tears (all right, sweat, anyway) went into that, I can tell you!

 

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Do Tiger Moths use Tom Toms?

Having got on the wrong side of a GPS system over my Pre-War Prescott weekend, when it led me and my carrier up a very narrow, very steep road instead of the sensible way round, I wondered how one navigates when flying a pre-war plane like Paul Harvey’s Tiger Moth.  Do you use pre-war navigation techniques, and if so, what are they (looking over the side, for example, to see where you are!); and if you use modern navigation techniques, what does that involve?  Do you use a kind of ‘aviator’s Tom Tom’?  Excuse me asking this daft question, but I’m not a pilot, not an aviation ‘buff’, so the only way I can find out is to ask…

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Prescott Tiger Moth disappointment

1401704F

Tiger Moth G-AFWI, known in Dad’s log book as BB814. Photo courtesy of owner Paul Harvey. She is in her pre-war livery.

Of course the big disappointment for me and my cousins was the fact that the Tiger Moth, G-AFWI/BB814, in which my father learned to fly, was not able to be flown over from Norfolk by its owner Paul Harvey because of the bad weather.  My brother Andrew, who lives in the States, was also unable to get over for Pre-War Prescott, though he would absolutely have loved to see the Tiger Moth.  Also rained off from the event were my father’s two step-brothers, Derek and Chris, and their wives, and Harry Birkner, a relative on our Grandmother’s side, all of whom were aiming to join us for today. However, we’re hoping that we can meet up with Paul and the Tiger Moth sometime next year, and if Andrew can get over at the same time, that would be fantastic. I will now work on the schedule for next year and see what we can come up with.  All heartfelt thanks to Ian Grace of Pre-War Prescott and for Paul Harvey for attempting to make this dream possible – we still hold out for next year!

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Pre-War Prescott pictures

An Alvis doubles up as a useful washing line

An Alvis doubles up as a useful washing line

 

AlanJanetEliz

My cousins Alan and Janet. Their father Frank, was also in the RAF as ground crew electrician, as was our Uncle Alan, an aircraft engine fitter, both my father’s elder brothers.

My cousin Janet and partner John with a line of Singers

My cousin Janet and partner John with a line of Singers

Just to show you how wet it was on arrival - from the shelter of the tea tent

Just to show you how wet it was on arrival – from the shelter of the tea tent

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21/07/2014 · 8:21 pm