Category Archives: OTC and Cadets

RAF Cloud Atlas

If rough seas hold danger for mariners, cloud can be equally hazardous to airmen. The development of meteorology and aircraft sophistication seem to have progressed in tandem, with airmen increasingly spending large portions of their training understanding the weather and the effects it could have on their aircraft. Tonight we are looking at a cloud atlas produced for the RAF in 1950, albeit a reprint of a wartime publication:imageThis book was property of West Leeds High School Combined Cadet Force, as evidenced by the stamp on the cover:imageInside the book different cloud types are illustrated, with notes for aviators set out alongside them:imageThe page on the left shows there are ten types of cloud and rates them as to their use or danger to the airmen. The book illustrates cloud types from both above and below in the views most likely to be seen by pilots:imageThese individual articles give much greater detail as to the effects of the cloud on different aircraft types. The back of the book includes a number of diagrams indicating how different weather fronts interact to produce different sorts of cloud:imageBrian Soper flew on Lancasters during the war and explained the problems of flying through cloud:

I remember several trips where we thought we would never get out of cloud, climbing up sometimes over ten to twelve thousand feet, occasionally breaking through to find another layer above. It was like flying through dense fog knowing a hundred others were somewhere very close. On one such trip we also had an intercom failure which could not be traced. Without intercom on the Lanc, the noise of the engines made it impossible to communicate. For a time the navigator had to pass courses to the pilot on paper. The problem was eventually solved; we did at last come out above the cloud and climbed to our normal height, 20 — 20,000 feet. On a good night we could make 23,000ft.

Clouds were normally a good place to hide form enemy aircraft, but not always as Goronwy Edwards relates:

I wish to lay claim to a unique experience – that of an air combat fought in the middle of a cloud, and at ranges varying from ten to twenty-five yards.

On 22nd June 1940, as the pilot of a Hudson aircraft of Coastal Command, I was escorting one of our naval cruisers off the coast of Norway when I intercepted a German flying boat which was shadowing the ship. I engaged it immediately, but it escaped into the cloud layer a few hundred feet above.

The Dornier was an unusual design of aircraft, its two engines being mounted in tandem, one pulling, the other pushing. And the two gunners’ cockpits were open, so that the gunners wore helmets and black leather protective clothing against the cold.

I followed into the cloud in the hope that it would break cover on top, where I could have another go at it, and for the first few seconds was busy checking the blind-flying and engine instruments, to trim the aircraft before engaging the automatic pilot to maintain a steady rate of climb. Satisfied that all was in order, I was reaching out to engage the autopilot when something made me look ahead through the windscreen.

I had the shock of my life to see the Dornier about 30 yards ahead of me, and slightly off to one side. In a one in a billion chance, I’d followed directly in his track!

The white fog of the cloud softened everything, so the aircraft seemed twice its size, and incredibly sinister. And the midships gunner saw me at the same time as I saw him. Clad in his black leathers and goggles, he looked like an executioner as he went for his gun and swung the muzzle towards my head.

RAF Apprentice’s Badge

In October 1919 the Royal Air Force began its apprentice scheme, teaching recruits an apprenticeship in carpentry, sheet metal working, fitting or as an electrician. These boys were selected by examination between the ages of 15 and 17 ½ and once they turned 18 they signed on for twelve years in the RAF. As a very technical service the RAF had quickly recognised that it would need a pool of talent to maintain and service its aircraft. The RAF apprentice scheme aimed To produce advanced tradesmen of good education and to develop in them such qualities of character- sense of responsibility, leadership, pride in the service- as will fit them for a progressive career within the Royal Air Force.

To help develop good character it was felt necessary to distinguish the boys on an apprenticeship from older airmen, and so from the very start they had their own unique trade badge, a four bladed propeller in a wheel that was sewn onto the sleeves of their jackets:imageOnce the apprentice was promoted, the badge was worn above his stripes. Above one stripe indicated a Leading Apprentice, above two a Corporal Apprentice and above three for a Sergeant Apprentice. For flight sergeants the badge was worn above the stripes and below a crown. The badge was supposed to be worn so the propeller was in an ‘X’ alignment. These badges can be clearly seen on the sleeves of these apprentices from RAF Cosford Apprentice Wing on parade in Wolverhampton in 1967:untitledIn close up this becomes clearer:untitledThe RAF Apprentice scheme finally closed in 1993 after over 71 years and 40,000 apprentices had successfully completed it.

OTC Summer Camp Postcard

Tuesday’s market was very quiet, but did throw up a rather nice inter-war postcard depicting boys of an Officer Training Corps on their summer camp:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001I particularly like the informality of this photo, with some in uniform and some in civilian clothing, two of the boys have service dress trousers, worn with shorts:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (3)The second carries a service dress cap:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - CopyA third boy, leaning on his friends, wears a SD cap:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (2)In the background can be seen the tops of bell tents, presumably where they are sleeping whilst on their camp:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (4)A galvanised oval bucket sits upturned in the foreground:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (5)The boys seem to age from about thirteen up to maybe sixteen or seventeen, the seated boy at the front looks particularly young:SKMBT_C36415080407531_0001 - Copy (6)The back of the postcard bears the handwritten message ‘Audrey . Some of the boys in camp’:SKMBT_C36415080407530_0001An interesting account from Oakham OTC about their summer camp in 1935 gives a flavour of the organisation of one of these camps:pt1