de Havilland 82a Tiger Moth
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The Tiger Moth was the basic trainer used throughout the RAF during the early war years, having been developed by de Havilland in the 1930s as a civilian aero club aeroplane.  Whilst it was quite robust and relatively straightforward to fly, its Gypsy Moth engine struggled to attain higher altitudes that were safe for aerobatics since most airfields in Rhodesia were 4000 feet above sea level.

Tiger Moths were primarily flown at the Elementary Flying Training Schools, 25 EFTS at Belvedere, 26 EFTS at Guinea Fowl, 27 EFTS at Induna and 28 EFTS at Mount Hampden.  Belvedere and Mt Hampden were situated near the capital city of Salisbury, Guinea Fowl was near Gwelo and Induna near Bulawayo, shown as green circles on this map. Some Tiger Moths were also sited at 33 Flying Instructors' School, Norton which was near Salisbury.

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A "posed" shot of a Tiger Moth being cleaned and serviced ready for flight.

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This wonderful air to air shot was taken by my father Toby when he was based at 28 EFTS.  With the close proximity of Belvedere and Norton, there were numerous Tiger Moths in the sky, so 28 EFTS decided to make theirs distinctive by adding a red and white chequer band around the fuselage.  This came about because one of the chief mechanics was ex-56 Squadron and their fighters sported the famous red and white chequers on fuselage and (usually) wings.

The end of a morning's flying at 25 EFTS Belvedere.

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I'm not quite sure what's going on in this photograph, checking fuel supply problems maybe?

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Flying on instruments only was an essential skill for every pilot.  The student sat in the back seat and had the blind flying hood pulled over him, effectively blocking out all vision apart from his instruments.

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"Don't put yer feet there!!"

DX prefixed Tiger Moths were all Australian-licenced built.

Flying the Tiger Moth

The following is an excellent account of the routine, the delights, the thrills and the difficulties of flying the Tiger Moth:

The airfield was grass, no runways, so most take-offs were into wind. The aeroplanes were Tiger Moths - biplanes with two open cockpits one behind the other, the instructor in the front and the pupil behind. To talk to one another meant wearing a flying helmet with a tube attached to each other.  It was an open cockpit and very cold so the dress was a flying suit and a parachute.

To start the aeroplane the propeller had to be rotated by hand. This was done by a ground mechanic, and when the engine was primed, the pilot would call "Contact". The mechanic swung the propeller to start the engine.  The first lesson was to be able to move the aeroplane on the ground, to taxy. This was done by applying enough power to be able to use the rudder pedals to steer as it was necessary to zigzag the aeroplane to see where you were going.

Take off is into the prevailing wind, full power is applied and the aeroplane is kept straight with the rudder. The "stick" between your legs controls the wings with a sideways movement and fore and aft for the climb or descent. The proper climbing speed and the right climbing attitude must be kept otherwise the aeroplane could stall and fall out of the sky.

The initial instruction was in keeping the aeroplane straight and level, and turning while maintaining height and attitude. Then the emergencies, such as stalling are practised. The Tiger Moth stall is corrected by pushing the stick forward.  Other emergencies to be covered were a stopped propeller and engine failure. In the first case if there is sufficient height then a dive with a fairly sharp pull-up would restart the prop. The second case meant finding a suitable open space to make a forced landing, as there was no power, rudder could be used to slip height. All this practice was done around the airfield, and had to be mastered before circuits and landings. This determined whether you were going to make it as a RAF pilot. All this time you knew that only six out of ten pupils would go on to the next stage. 

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The first page in Dad's logbook, note such early features as "Familiarity with cockpit layout", "Effect of controls" and "Taxying".

"Straight and level" is the first real achievement in flying, something that becomes second nature but not at all easy at first!

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I shall never forget the excitement of lifting off the ground and flying around the circuit to make a successful landing, much to the relief of the instructor. At eighteen years old I was cockahoop.  Rhodesia from the air looks very flat with few distinguishing features such as roads, railway lines, and places of habitation. Houses were huts made of natural materials and scattered in villages with no recognizable road system. Towns as we know them in England are scarce and even Bulawayo, the second largest town in the country, had only twelve thousand population

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Mt Hampden in the distance from the front cockpit of a Tiger Moth.

The weather was normally excellent but there could be a strong haze which made it difficult to see a clear horizon or the ground. It was good sense therefore when flying alone and practising manoeuvres to have a reference point and the most distinguishable of all was the aerodrome.

Rhodesia had a sub-tropical climate and this dictated the flying hours that were possible, especially in the light wood and canvas Tiger  Moths.  In the middle of the day, the heat caused strong currents of air which were far too rough for inexperienced pilots.  Consequently, flying started at dawn, which in the summer months was around 6.00am and continued till 9.00am.  If a course got behind with their schedule conditions between 4.00pm and 6.00pm were usually good enough for catch-up time.

A further weather danger were "dust devils", small whirlwinds which swept across airfields during the hottest part of a summer's day.  These had to be treated with respect as they could have disastrous effects if flown through at a low altitude or encountered during taxying.